There is a new crime hotspot in Trinidad and law enforcement officials have vowed to lock down Malabar to stamp out the criminal elements.
Malabar is located in East Trinidad.
Both Deputy Commissioner of Police Mervyn Richardson and Chief of Defence Staff Kenrick Maharaj yesterday disclosed that security intelligence has shown Malabar is a crime haven, similar to the likes of Laventille and East Port of Spain, which are considered to be criminal hotspots.
“As we analysed the situation, we have realised that Malabar has become a new area of concern... we have had deliberate discussions on how to engage this,” said Maharaj.
Richardson noted there has been an upsurge in criminal activity in the area in the recent past, and security intelligence led them to conduct a security sweep of the area where drugs and ammunition were seized.
At Malabar yesterday, officers from the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS), Defence Force and Air Guard swept the area and conducted road blocks and searches.
The Express learnt 21 people were arrested—five on murder charges, nine for narcotics, three for arms and ammunition, and four on outstanding warrants.
On site were National Security Minister Gary Griffith, together with Legal Affairs Minister Prakash Ramadhar, who was acting as Prime Minister yesterday, Richardson and Maharaj to observe the officers at work and to interact with people from the community.
For the year to date, there have been 15 murders in the Malabar area, seven of which occurred over the past two weeks.
“We cannot afford for criminals to feel emboldened and to engage in criminal activity with impunity...the intention is dominate the ground, to suppress criminal activity and to encourage the residents here to be confident enough to engage us and to indicate what are the issues... who are the criminals,” said Griffith.
He said the joint operations will not focus only on Malabar, but on areas throughout the country such as Arima and La Horquetta, where crime is a problem based on the intelligence received.
The tough-talking minister said there will be eyes all over, as people will see a joint army and police presence which will be a “heavy deterrent” against crime.
In fact, Griffith disclosed the criminals have already started to back down.
“What is happening now, gang members, other individuals, people are backing off, they’ve realised this is not the avenue, the Government, the law enforcement officials, we are all working hand in hand, we are looking to provide policies, they are implementing the policies, and through proper intelligence, through collaboration between the citizens and the law enforcement officers, we would bring down these criminal elements once and for all, the gangs must no longer feel that they have control, that they can actually be killing each other and call that collateral damage,” said Griffith.
He said through computerised statistics, threats are being analysed and national security polices being implemented.
“This (Malabar) is the one area that these individuals have the perception that they could continue to ply their criminal trade, and that is why we are here,” said Griffith.
He said the intention is to lock down Malabar, find the criminals and remove them.
Griffith added that, also based on security intelligence, a “watch list” was created which will raise red flags when a person who was known to be involved in criminal activity tries to get a Government contract. “The persons who already have contracts, fair enough, they got away, what we are speaking of now is blacklisting those individuals who continue to deprive the citizens of their right to safety and security.”
Griffith reiterated that state resources cannot be used to fund criminal activities.
He said law enforcement also has the intelligence on persons who try to acquire contracts using individuals as “fronts”.
He said further that officials were also dealing with the problem whereby contractors are being targeted by individuals and being ordered to pay taxes in certain communities.
This watch list, said Griffith, is nothing new as a similar approach is used in the United States.
“Similar to the United States where there is a watchlist, if someone is a terrorist but he’s not been charged, I don’t think they will allow him to paint the Pentagon,” he said.
Ramadhar said he does not believe in branding anyone a criminal and that is why the police need to step up their investigations to acquire the relevant evidence.
He echoed Griffith’s stand that there must be no negotiation with criminal elements, especially in terms of state contracts.
Ramadhar commended members of the law enforcement for putting their lives on the line for the country.
“The state will not succumb to criminality,” he said.
—with reporting by Jensen LaVende
Fifteen people have been killed for the year in Malabar and surrounding areas. Of this figure, seven people were killed there within the past two weeks. The following is the breakdown for the past two weeks:
October 1 - double murder
Around 8.05 p.m. Shiyloh Yahseph McIntosh, 21, of Guerra Street, Calvary Hill, Arima, and Kernel Jobe, 27, of Cocorite Road, Sunset Avenue, Arima, were with a group of men at an abandoned house at Mahogany Drive in Malabar, when they were approached by three men who opened fire on them.
McIntosh was shot in the head and died on the spot. Jobe was wounded and was rushed to the Arima Health Facility, where he succumbed to his injuries around 8.25 p.m.
October 2 - murder
Around 4.20 p.m., Christopher “Mad Dog” Greg was found nursing bullet wounds along Train Line Road in Malabar after residents heard gunshots in the area. Greg was rushed to the Arima Health Facility, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
October 3 - murder and two shootings
Around 9.30 p.m., maxi-taxi conductor David Chance, 29, of Samaroo Village, Arima, was on board an Arima-to-Port of Spain maxi-taxi, when two men entered. The men asked to be dropped off at Red Hill, D’Abadie and while exiting the maxi, one man paid the driver, while the other shot Chance. The men ran off. Chance was taken to the Arima Health Facility, where he died while undergoing treatment around 10.15 p.m.
Earlier in the night, around 8.45 p.m., Devon Lewis, 27, and Marvin Solomon, 25, were attending the wake of Jobe at the corner of Sunset Drive and Train Line Road, Malabar, when a red car pulled up. Two men exited the car and fired several shots, hitting Lewis in the foot and Solomon in the finger.
October 4 - murder
Jerome “Patty” Alfonso, 35, was at the corner of Lengua and Joseph Streets in Malabar near his home, when two men walked up to him and opened fire. Alfonso was shot eight times and died on the side of the road.