Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Another strike against crime

Express editorial logo378

Mark Fraser

 Trinidad and Tobago is once again being encouraged to put its faith and hope in the potential of a new police-military strike force being mobilised against terrorism, hostage-taking and gang warfare.

The National Security Special Operations Group (NSSOG), an initiative identified by National Security Minister Gary Griffith in the Senate last Tuesday, has got off on the good foot, earning early welcome from both the Opposition People’s National Movement and the Police Service Commission.

It is by stressing what the new unit is not that Mr Griffith has won such approvals.

NSSOG, he said, will neither be another Special Anti-Crime Unit (SAUTT), the much-maligned brainchild of the previous PNM administration, nor another Flying Squad, a virtual law-unto-itself hit squad of the 1970s which shot first and asked questions later.

“This is not a covert unit and I think this was the concern with SAUTT…where you didn’t know what they were doing. This is not a clandestine unit, this is not a Flying Squad. This is something that is very open and transparent (that) will deal with the concept of major criminal activities…in the 21st century,” said the Minister, to applause.

Moreover, questions of legality and legitimacy that had bedevilled SAUTT will not apply to the Special Operations Group which, reporting to the Police and Defence Force top brass, will operate with the same clearance enjoyed by the Inter Agency Task Force.

Stating that members of the NSSOG will receive training overseas, including with the renowned Special Air Services in the United Kingdom, Mr Griffith, confirming “a problem between intelligence and operation”, stressed the need for confidentiality, referring to gang leaders and other criminal elements being tipped off whenever any law enforcement personnel were heading their way.

Fixing that problem is far easier said than done and the Minister must be well aware of that, highlighting as he did the need to select officers of impeccable character whose track record is unquestioned, which, of course, is also easier said than done.

But there are men and women out there with those credentials and we can only hope they will outnumber the bad guys currently enlisted in T&T’s security services and soon eliminate them through prosecution and jail time; and then get down to the dangerous but critical task of wiping out the criminal element, whose numbers have grown and who have become more brazen over the years and operate as if they can never be apprehended.

It is asking a lot, but with dedication  and a good deal of courage, the war on crime can be won.

The Trinidad and Tobago public, watching murders daily mount and largely remain unsolved, can hardly wait to see effective crime-busting results from this latest law enforcement vanguard. 

 From the new National Security Special Operations Group—to which much is given by way of trust, authority and resources—much is equally expected.