Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A proactive approach

To tackle crime, chamber calls for:


Business centre: The daily hustle and bustle of the Southern Main Road, Couva, where numerous businessplaces are located. —Photos: DEXTER PHILIP

Mark Fraser

A WEB search containing the keywords “Couva, Trinidad, news” might depress you.

The first few stories on the list detail the recent runaway crime situation in the energy capital of the country, in an area seeing unprecedented residential growth and continuing new business development. 

The prosperity has brought problems, and it has to do with the ability of police to adequately secure the district.

Last week, the Couva/Point Lisas Chamber of Commerce issued a distress call to the Government, asking for a response to the upsurge in violent crime by immediately by increasing the number of police officers in the area. 

The chamber noted the district was expanding in both housing and business, and the State had to respond to this. 

The call may well be justified since between 20 and 25 police officers are on duty at the station, on a shift system, to serve a residential population of well over 21,000 (as was last recorded in the 2000 census and not including the working population). 

The district is the home of the petrochemical-related industries within the Point Lisas Industrial Estate, a sea port, numerous retail businesses as well as agricultural activities, and fast-expanding residential settlements to mainly middle-class income earners. 

There are also six beaches in the district, which are mainly used for commercial fishing rather than recreation. 

The chamber had stated it was concerned with the impact of crime and lawlessness on the community of Couva as a whole and, more specifically, the businesses in the area. 

“It is again calling on the Minister of National Security to give greater consideration to the needs of Central,” the chamber said. 

Chamber president Lily Herai had said a proactive approach to crime prevention, rather than a reactive approach to crime, was needed. 

Herai said based on their consultations, one of the key areas was the immediate need for additional resources. 

“There is an urgent need to strengthen the force at the Couva Police Station.” 

Herai said suggested the installation of surveillance cameras in the streets, high-traffic and business areas, fishing areas and the Point Lisas Industrial Estate and the port, greater enforcement of the Loitering Act and the installation of metal scanners in schools. 

Member of Parliament for Couva North Ramona Ramdial agrees with the call by the chamber, while Couva South MP Rudranath Indarsingh said it was “noteworthy”. 

Ramdial said the quality of policing offered some officers in the Couva Police Station and the nearby Freeport Police Station were not up to par; while officers of the Chaguanas Police Station, under the direction of Senior Superintendent of the Central Division Johnny Abraham, were proactive at fighting crime in Couva. 

Of those errant police officers the MP said: “(Some of them) have been most lax or relaxed. We really can’t seem to get anything out of them. And they give you a runaround all the time. I have spoken to Minister Griffith about this, but his hands are also somewhat tied with the Police Service Commission and the Commissioner of Police, who has to deal with these things. And sometimes it is not seen as a priority to shift around police officers from station to station.” 

Indarsingh said he too had been in discussions with Minister of National Security Gary Griffith over the growing concerns for protection against criminal elements. 

“I have heard the call of the chamber, heard the calls of constituents, and all I am prepared to say is that I have held discussions with the Ministry of National Security and also listened to the concerns of Johnny Abraham and I have related them to the minister. He (Griffith) is looking at the issue of crime from a holistic point of view throughout Trinidad and Tobago,” said Indarsingh. 

“Of course from a national security and policing point of view, you don’t expect me to make these things public for the benefit of the criminals. There is an initiative on the part of the Ministry of National Security for the Police Service, so they will be implemented. We don’t want to make these measures public for the perpetrators of crime.” 

Ramdial said it was also up to the residents to work with other State agencies to deal with domestic problems which may fuel crime. 

“Almost every community has a community policing committee which shares intelligence with the police officers with respect to the drug blocks, the car thieves and a number of crimes that plague residents. We are also looking at domestic-related issues.

“I have spoken to Minister Glenn Ramadharsingh (Minister of the People and Social Development) to have some of his agencies come into the area and counsel residents, especially single parents. As an MP, I get a lot of complaints about single mothers who get beaten by their boyfriends and other males. 

“We have gotten Family Services involved to assist in getting children their birth certificates for school. But also the parents themselves just don’t care to assist. 

“Sometimes we go into communities and speak to mothers and they would say ‘yes’, but then do nothing. We also need proactive parents to work with us. Some of them do not want their kids to go to school. That’s the reality of the situation.”