Follow-up work vital for hotspots
Most of us are very concerned with the massive incidence of all kinds of violent criminal activity, especially murder, taking place in hotspots such as East Port of Spain and Diego Martin.
Recently, there have been significant police raids on areas of East Port of Spain where a number of arrests were made. This was followed by more than one visit by the Prime Minister accompanied by other ministers. All of this activity is good and I would like to particularly commend the Prime Minister for leading from the front here.
However, what is even more important is the long-term follow-up, with the main issue being a lack of trust by residents of these areas in the police, leading to little or no co-operation from them. The only way to overcome this is for the police to maintain a constant presence of highly trained officers walking the streets of criminal hotspots and knocking on doors to talk to all of the residents in the community.
If this is done, slowly over time, the confidence of the community in the police will be won back and the flow of information on criminal activity will start to trickle in and then steadily increase.
Police officers operating in these communities should, ideally, live in the community and also have regular meetings with NGOs operating in the area to assist in developing positive programmes for all residents, especially for the young. An example can be a walking school bus, where police officers and other responsible residents can help guide children to school through crime-infested neighbourhoods.
The Government should also look at offering businesses tax incentives to set up shop in these areas, while consideration should be given to constructing business incubation workshops in these so-called downtrodden communities.
The bottom line is we have to make a serious national effort to give every opportunity to all the residents of criminal hotspots to make an honest living and ensure these communities, once again, become safe for the silent majority of law-abiding citizens living there.