Security After Emergency

first_img A Regional Challenge “There’s always been that concern by persons that say that the military should not be used in the streets,” said retired Defence Force Captain Gary Griffith, national security advisor to the prime minister. “I beg to differ.” Capt. Griffith, a 16-year veteran who spent six months with the United Nations peacekeeping efforts in Haiti, stressed the benefit of joint operations between the police and Armed Forces. “The military is there to act as that support element to ensure that democracy is maintained,” he said. A valuable peacetime role for the Armed Forces, Capt. Griffith said, is participating in joint operations, training together with other security professionals, and forming part of a new communications hub that would allow all units to work hand in hand with each other. As part of “21st century law enforcement,” the government is ramping up its use of empirical testing and data to study criminal patterns. It is also seeking the latest intelligence gathering technology and it is closing loopholes in the criminal justice system to provide security forces with more legal tools. Learning from missteps made during the SoE, the police are being trained on the intricacies of the new gang law. Gregory Aboud is president of the Downtown Owners and Merchants Association. His stores, filled with brightly colored textiles, Trinidad was in a state of emergency (SoE) when the shooting took place, but a curfew did not prevent this shooting in broad daylight on that October morning. The country was ravaged by an average of 45 murders a month in 2011. Even though violent crime had decreased from 2010, the high homicide rate was unsettling to citizens. A string of 11 murders in four days in August 2011 triggered the government to declare the SoE in the Caribbean nation of 1.3 million. This allowed the government to boost the police force by nearly 70 percent, from 6,146 to 10,316, by drawing on personnel from the Armed Forces. The Armed Forces were also allowed to conduct warrantless searches and arrests. The murder rate dropped from 46 cases during the prior month to an average of 18 during the four-month SoE, and serious crimes fell by 50 percent, according to police statistics. Arms and drug seizures also increased significantly. In the months since, the government used lessons learned during the SoE as part of a long-term strategy to prevent drugs and arms from entering the country and reduce related gang violence. However, when the SoE was lifted December 5, most of an estimated 450 detained gang members were released due to lack of evidence. In the first 23 days of 2012, there were 31 murders. For all of the successes of the SoE, the tool was not a panacea. Yet, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar highlighted a major feat of the SoE that laid the groundwork for changes to come: “Public confidence in the ability of our protective services is beginning to return.” By Dialogo April 01, 2012 The Caribbean Basin Security Initiative and other funding sources helped CARICOM IMPACS get 10,000 guns off Caribbean streets in the last five years. “It is our view that the same people who are trafficking drugs are the same people trafficking persons and trafficking guns and ammunition,” Forbes said, adding that his organization was also encouraging member states to rely more on forensic sciences to solve crimes. With regional security strategies still a work in progress, the task of fighting gang violence and keeping drugs off the streets of Trinidad still is the responsibility of local police. Catching the “Big Fish” The North Eastern Division of Trinidad’s police service is headquartered at the Morvant Police Station. Once a crime “hot spot,” Morvant has seen violent crime diminished drastically, and the police unit prides itself in having one of the highest conviction rates in the country. The North Eastern Division’s Task Force office at the Morvant Police Station consists of five desks crowded in a room packed with tall, overflowing filing cabinets. Cpl. Darryl La Pierre stressed strong leadership and ties to the community as the path to one of the most respected police forces on the island. As a recent night patrol demonstrated, challenges remain. During the patrol, two Nissan Navara SUV patrol cars roamed the streets, the officers keenly aware of their surroundings in the evening rush hour. As one car drove west along the Eastern Main Road in San Juan, Constable Jason Sandy, who was driving, spotted a suspicious transaction in the shadows just beyond the bright lights of the Mount Lambert gas station. By the time officers could spin the car around and pull into the station, the man making the purchase had fled, but the seller was walking along Maloney Street. Officers approached. After a search, officers found a large wad of cash and razor blades with a powdery residue. The seller denied he had been selling cocaine, but could not explain the razors or large sum of cash. The police did not have enough evidence to charge him with a crime, but they could develop a relationship. “He might tell us something or tell something in the future,” said Sergeant Cornelius Samuel. “Most informants are criminals themselves or members of the community who are fed up with criminals. It’s a long-term investment.” A few days earlier, in the Southern Division, similar intelligence from an informant led to a bust. Four arrests were made and more than 4 kilograms of marijuana were seized, along with firearms. Senior Superintendent Deodath Dulalchan said increased interactions with community members during the SoE not only helped citizens to increase their trust in the police, it helped police to understand what citizens expect of them. “They were able to see results,” said Superintendent Dulalchan of the community. “They themselves appreciated the fact that they need to work closer with the police.” Intelligence is the key ingredient to fighting crime, according to Trinidad and Tobago Police Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs. In his opinion, the SoE heightened intelligence gathering that has contributed to improved safety and security after the SoE was lifted. Still, citizens feel the “big fish” are getting away. Sgt. Samuel believes there are big fish in Trinidad bankrolling drug trafficking. He hopes new legislation will bolster financial crime investigations and that closing more cases will put pressure on traffickers. Until then, police in the North Eastern Division know their tools are sometimes limited but they believe in the work they do. “It really takes some effort, resources and courage,” said Sgt. Samuel. “Overall, we have some dedicated officers who are still fighting the good fight.”center_img Violent crime in Trinidad and Tobago led to the declaration of a state of emergency in August 2011. Drugs and arms trafficking needed to be halted, and the Government asked Soldiers to join with police in the effort. Post-emergency, the Caribbean nation is adopting best practices to strengthen citizen confidence and set in motion a new security plan. Father Reginald Hezekiah was sitting in his office behind the St. Charles Roman Catholic Church on Eastern Main Road when he heard gunshots ring out. “Pow! Pow!” he later recalled, his soft voice contrasting sharply with the deafening sound that had echoed in the garage behind him. He didn’t know what to do. Murders had been taking place all around Tunapuna, a relatively safe community on the outskirts of Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad and Tobago. Father Hezekiah scaled the steps to the second floor of his home where he could see beyond his peach-colored church to the street. Lying there alone was a construction worker, bleeding. Co-workers had fled, and neighbors had barricaded themselves in their homes. Father Hezekiah stepped outside. When he reached the man, he was unconscious. Father Hezekiah knelt, and placing his hand upon the man’s forehead, he began to pray. Blood spread over the man’s pants. More blood streamed onto the street until an ambulance arrived. The man would survive, Father Hezekiah learned later. draw visitors from Trinidad’s African and Indian immigrant populations. “The state of emergency is very disruptive to the country, very disruptive to the economy and very disruptive to the social well-being and social life of our citizens,” he said. Society cannot tolerate the use of the SoE as a long-term solution, Aboud said. He also related the problems of poverty and lawlessness that Trinidad and Tobago is facing to those in Jamaica, where the murder rate in 2011 was three times that of Trinidad and Tobago and a state of emergency was also declared in January 2011. Francis Forbes, former commissioner of police in Jamaica, is the interim executive director of the Caribbean Community Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (CARICOM IMPACS), an organization that acts as a think tank and regional coordinating group. He agreed that the problems the nation is facing as a transshipment point for South American drugs are shared by other Caribbean nations where firearms are used to protect drug shipments, then are left behind for gangs to use in turf battles. “The proliferation of arms and ammunition is wreaking havoc currently in the region, and when it is combined with the trafficking of drugs, it is again a recipe for disaster that we are taking head-on now,” he said. last_img

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