Sunday, January 21, 2018

Griffith mum on DEA’s presence in T&T

National Security Minister Gary Griffith is not saying whether or not there are United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officers operating in Trinidad and Tobago.

“I have no intention to make any statement to a matter that is currently being investigated. There is an obvious reason for this. We do not want to drop the ball. All I can say—it will be improper of me to say if DEA agents are here. What I can state is that individuals who continue to mention all the number of DEA officials who turned up here, it was not Gary Griffith, it was not the Prime Minister; those questions should be turned to the individuals who said that. I never said if they were here and if they were not,” he said.

Since news broke last month of a US$100 million cocaine find at the Port of Norfolk in the US state of Virginia, from a shipment originating from the Port of Port of Spain, there has been speculation and reports that DEA officials were in Trinidad and would be making an arrest in the case soon.

Griffith was one of the ministers speaking at the post-Cabinet news briefing yesterday at the Office of the Prime Minister in St Clair.

He said Cabinet has approved a Community Comfort Patrol Pilot Programme, manned by private security officers to complement the police Rapid Response Unit in “hot spot” areas.

Griffith said the new programme, which was “designed to address the fear and perception of crime by citizens”, will complement the Police Service and allow the Rapid Response Unit to better respond to calls.

“People complain they hear too many sirens and too many blue lights, but I wish to assure you—you will see many more because we will provide that visibility and that deterrent.”

The mobile patrols will be sourced through the private security network commission and will comprise private officers who will have powers of arrest and be fully trained and through the (approval) of the Commissioner of Police to support and complement the police force, he said.

Vehicles will also be constantly monitored while on patrol through global positioning systems (GPS) via the National Operations Centre (NOC).

“What you will get is more visibility and presence and faster response to the scene (from rapid response units). These patrols are by private security officers, not police officers. They will complement the Police Service temporarily until we have the Rapid Response Unit at full level.”

That unit currently operates with 21 vehicles, but the full complement will be 77, with 51 vehicles on the road at all times, so the average response time will be five to seven minutes, said Griffith.

The service will be nothing new, he said, since something like it already exists in higher income communities where neighbourhoods pay for the service. Under the programme, the State will pay for the patrols.

Service delivery from law enforcement officers will also include customer relations training, as Griffith also announced Cabinet approval for a Customer Relations and Protocol Training Programme for law enforcement state agencies.

The first stage will target police and immigration officers, he said, “to ensure they know how to speak to law-abiding citizens properly”.