Police must make a stand
Is it sufficient, once again, to deploy the army in another murderous hot spot, in the hope the soldiers' presence can somehow cool things down? Military muscle must count for something at least persuasive in asserting the State's interest in, and the population's concern with affirming law and order, with a known enemy to battle.
As they set up camp and conduct patrols in Beverly Hills, Laventille, the soldiers will, however, be less empowered than the police they are assisting. It is not clear what strategy the forces are employing to target gang culture in those areas and, more importantly, to deprive gangsters of the weapons for killing.
In the absence of a localised crackdown and stop-and-search tactics, and the lockdown of neighbourhoods for the purpose of finding arms, it is doubtful what the police with military back-up will be able to achieve on any long-term basis.
The presence of the armed soldiers may in itself act as a deterrent to these bold-faced criminals who, in broad daylight last Saturday, fired shots at Express and TV6 reporters and cameramen, who instead of recording the facts of an earlier murder at the scene were forced to dive for cover.
The brazen gunmen may keep low for the short term but how long will the army stay in the area to preserve the peace? And when they move camp, it will be back to the wild West scene where men, women and children are shot down with the sun still high in the sky, these murderous gang members not even waiting for the dark of night to carry out their dirty deeds?
If the law enforcement authorities are serious about bringing back some semblance of peace to this area, they should think about establishing a permanent post in the area, manned around the clock, thus giving a measure of comfort to those law-abiding citizens who reside in the community.
The police—with the army in support—have to treat this as a matter of priority and not abandon the peaceful residents of Beverly Hills, most of whom would have taken up residence long before these trigger-happy thugs moved in and they now have no choice but to duck the bullets as they go about their business.
Ideally, these same innocent inhabitants are the ones who should be informing the police of who is carrying arms among them and let the justice system take its course. But that theory has been shot down with so many so-called protected informants being killed even before they can give evidence in court. Now everyone is scared stiff to even be seen talking to a police officer.
The other solution would be for the police to infiltrate these gangs and collect the necessary evidence to bring them to justice, but since that is asking too much of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service, it will have to be that setting up a round-the-clock command post in the heart of the battlefield will act as a deterrent to the runaway murder toll.
Calls by area councillors for "counselling to address the issues" are way too late to deal with today's gangsters—it can and should be implemented to deter the next generation—and the police now have to fight fire with fire.
Meanwhile, the patrols must make their presence felt and if they can deter even one more murder it would have been worth the effort.