A comprehensive and heavy security clampdown will be in effect in Port of Spain tomorrow as Carnival 2014 gets underway, National Security Minister Gary Griffith has said.
He warned that anyone entering the city could be stopped and searched as law enforcement officers implement their plan to clamp down on criminal behaviour.
As many as 5,000 officers, the largest number ever, comprising joint army and police patrols will be out in full force, he said yesterday.
The clampdown will also be in effect in several other parts of the country, which, Griffith warned, will involve heavy police patrols, road blocks, and air reconnaissance by national security helicopters in a strong bid to ensure a safe and crime-free Carnival as far as possible.
“People can expect to see a maximum strength of police officers, and even though we have no (restricted zones), law enforcement presence both on land and in the air will be very thick,” he said.
For the first time as well, according to Griffith, each of the 60 bands participating in Carnival will be equipped with Global Positioning System (GPS) devices so that they will at all times be under surveillance by operatives at the National Operations Centre (NOC) where all data will be fed and acted upon if and when necessary.
A GPS tracking unit is a device that uses the Global Positioning System to determine the precise location of a vehicle, person, or other asset to which it is attached and to record the position of the asset at regular intervals. The recorded location data can be stored within the tracking unit, or it may be transmitted to a central location data base—in this case the (NOC)—to assigned law enforcement officers.
Griffith said this GPS system is proven and the intention is to make 2014 the safest Carnival ever in the history of this country.
With the GPS devices, the police will better be able to ensure greater crowd control, ascertain the number of people in each band, assist security management to mobilise vehicles, if and when necessary, and ensure no crowd congestion, he explained.
“As a matter of fact, law enforcement officers will know everything that’s going on in the band, including when they stop for lunch,” he assured.
Officers will also be assigned to each of the bands on both days of Carnival to provide a greater sense of security to masqueraders, he added.
“Whatever happens within Port of Spain, there will be a proper lock down prior to Jouvert morning. There will be maximum manpower, and there would be live feed from the helicopters to the NOC. There will be static patrols at specific areas, mobile patrols, along with the efforts of the Rapid Response Unit which will be spread through the capital city and other areas.
“Law enforcement officers will not just be at Carnival events, but will be looking out at beaches, communities, etc and the NOC is working in close co-ordination with the National Carnival Commission (NCC) and other Carnival bodies in case of any situation everyone will be aware of it immediately from all law enforcement agencies,” he told the Sunday Express.
This also includes any health related issue.
Asked whether the new Socadrome venue, which allows a second route for bands, would create a further security hassle, Griffith said, on the contrary, it would greatly help in controlling the massive crowds which prior to this new venue change, would have been concentrated in one area for long periods.
“Before, because of mass persons locked into one grid in the city, that made it harder for security officials …the lack of mobility by the bands …the inability of police vehicles to move around in a situation where there are 60,000 locked in one place, made it more difficult to control, but this new plan has caused the crowed to spread out, so it is much easier because of less congestion and more manoeuverability.”
Griffith said, as of yesterday, with several of the major events concluded, including the Soca Monarch on Fantastic Friday, the security plans seemed to be working quite well.
“In all the Carnival events so far there have been no major criminal activity … no incidents whatsoever. We have put in place specific operational plans with respect to each venue …every single day we have had a briefing involving proper co-ordination among the stakeholders.”
Griffith also indicated that last Tuesday he signed certificates of authorisation issued in accordance with Section 70C of the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Act, Chapter 48:50 to legally allow an additional 87 law enforcement officers to conduct breathalyser tests nationwide during the Carnival season.
The officers completed the stipulated five days of Breath Alcohol Testing, Training and Evaluation which is a requirement in order to be certified in breathalyser testing.
“This increase in law enforcement personnel trained in breathalyser testing will help clamp down on persons driving under the influence of alcohol and driving over the legal speed limit, two things which contribute to preventable road traffic accidents and fatalities,” he said.
He urged citizens not to be “fearful but careful” and to implement their own safety measures when going out.
He said there will also be a strong visible presence by the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service on the nation’s roads, supported by officers of the Licensing Division. This, he said, is intended to remind party-goers to “always be mindful of traffic laws and act responsibly by practising road safety during this hectic period of nonstop Carnival events”.
Griffith, who has hung up his Carnival costume this year to better manage and monitor security arrangements, is appealing to citizens to be patient and to co-operate with police during roadblocks and traffic delays.
His message was clear: “Law enforcement officers have a job to do and they will do it.”