Mobbed: Residents clash with police officers in Beetham after the shooting death of Christopher Greaves in September this year. —Photo: CURTIS CHASE

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The challenges of fighting crime

By Joel Julien joel.julien@trinidadexpress.com

CRIME maintained its position in 2013 as arguably the number one problem facing Trinidad and Tobago.
The post of National Security Minister not only remained one of the most scrutinised jobs to have in Trinidad and Tobago, but became one of the most difficult positions to hold down in 2013.
The country saw three National Security ministers this year.
The year 2013 started off with Jack Warner holding the reins of the National Security Ministry.
On June 21, 2012, Warner became National Security Minister, replacing Brigadier John Sandy in a Cabinet reshuffle by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
Exactly ten months later—on April 21, 2013—Persad-Bissessar announced she had accepted Warner’s resignation from the position.
Warner’s resignation came amid calls for him to step down as a Government minister following a damning report into his tenure as president of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (Concacaf).
That same night, Emmanuel George was named Minister of National Security to replace Warner.
George lasted just over four months on the job.
On September 6, Gary Griffith was appointed National Security Minister in anoth­er Cabinet reshuffle by Persad-Bissessar.
Griffith, a former captain in the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force, had served as Persad-Bissessar’s national security adviser since she became prime minister in May 2010.
But as the ministers changed, murders continued unabated over the years.
In the five years preceding 2013, more than 2,250 lives were lost in Trinidad and Tobago, according to statistics from the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service’s (TTPS) website.
Addressing a Caricom security meeting in Haiti in February, Persad-Bissessar said crime was costing Trinidad and Tobago more than $200 million a year in tourism revenue.
In 2013, the People’s Partnership Government sought to find a legal solution to dealing with the country’s crime scourge.
On March 1, legislation to give members of the Defence Force the authority to function and perform the duties of police officers was tabled in Parliament.
On March 15, the Defence (Amendment) Bill 2013 was passed with the Government’s majority in the House of Representatives.
During the debate in the Upper House on the bill, however, Independent senators raised concern about the legislation.
The bill required a three-fifths majority, which meant the Government (which has 15 votes) needed to garner the support of at least four Independent senators.
With the bill facing defeat, Leader of Government Business Ganga Singh moved to adjourn the debate. The bill was allowed to lapse at the end of the last parliamentary session.
The year 2013 also saw claims that an illegal option had been sought to curb the country’s crime scourge: the revival of the “Flying Squad”.
One of the most infamous police commissioners to have ever operated in Trinidad and Tobago in the 1980s was Randolph Burroughs, under whom the clandestine group called the “Flying Squad” is said to have had the criminal element in this country on the run.
In the wake of increasing criminality in Trinidad and Tobago, there is no wonder people have called for the invoking of Burroughs’s spirit to curb the country’s crime problem.
In 2013, claims were made that the co­vert squad had somehow been resurrected.
Former Flying Squad member retired inspector Mervyn Cordner claimed a covert unit called the New Flying Squad Investigation Unit (NFSIU) was operational.
Cordner claimed he was given approval by then National Security Minister Jack Warner to set up the unit.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar told the Parliament there was no direct or applied approval ever given by the National Security Council or the Cabinet for the establishment of the clandestine squad.
She referred the matter to acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams for investigation.
The Police Complaints Authority also launched an investigation into the NFSIU and the report is pending.
In 2013, Williams said the TTPS was able to achieve “phenomenal results” in reducing violent crimes in Trinidad and Tobago.
Williams said 2013 saw a 33 per cent reduction in violent crimes as compared to 2012. There was also a 21 per cent reduction in fatal accidents between 2013 and 2012, Williams said.
This year also saw several successful busts, which were said to have caused a multi-million-dollar dent in the illegal diesel racket.
Despite all the successes, however, murders remained a thorn in the side of local law enforcement, with last year’s total of 379 being surpassed.

Following is a list of some of the crimes that occurred across the country in 2013:

1. OFFICER DOWN

On February 19, Police Sergeant Hayden Manwaring, 43, was shot in the abdomen after his gun was wrestled away during a fight with a robbery suspect in San Fernando.
Manwaring and other officers responded to a report that Mom’s Diner at Cipero Street, San Fernando, had been robbed.
The officers spotted the get away vehicle, a Nissan AD wagon, at Padmore Street, located off the Gulf View Link Road.
It was during the apprehension of one of the suspects that Manwaring’s gun was taken away and he and Constable Nicholas Phillip were shot.
Phillip was shot in the arm.
On February 20, Manwaring died at San Fernando General Hospital as a result of that injury.
Four men—Kofi Cropper, 40, of Manahambre Road, Ste Madeleine; Kerron Nicho­las Garcia, 19, of Aldana Street, Princes Town; Anthony Clement, 37, of East Dry River, Port of Spain; and Kelvin Wallace, 23, of Flamingo Crescent, Plea­santville—are currently before the San Fernando Magistrates’ Court, charged with Manwaring’s murder.
Manwaring received a Humming Bird Medal (Bronze) posthumously this year.

2. POLICE KILLING?

On September 1, Christopher Greaves, a father of two of Fifth Street, Beetham Gardens, was spending time with his son, Isaac, when he decided to go to a shop at the corner of Third Street.
At the same time Greaves exited the shop, officers of the Inter-Agency Task Force were conducting a mobile patrol in the area.
Greaves took three bullets from behind, one of which killed him, according to an autopsy report dated September 3, 2013, obtained by the Express.
And according to a police report, also obtained by the Express, the bullets came from the guns of a police constable and a police corporal who were on mobile patrol on Main Street, Beetham Estate, on September 1.
The corporal fired one round from his Galil.
The police constable, however, who was driving the police vehicle as well, fired a total of 18 shots, one of which killed Greaves.
Greaves’s death set off tensions in the Beetham community just east of Port of Spain and resulted in a clash between residents and police officers that lasted three days.
During that time, police lobbed tear gas canisters and fired their weapons in the air to control enraged residents.
Residents blocked the Priority Bus Route and the Churchill-Roosevelt Highway with burning debris, stalling traffic for hours.
They hurled missiles at police and vehicles travelling along the highway. Two children who were in passing vehicles were injured and treated at hospital.

3. MALL SHOOTING

On August 27, attorney Dr Wesley Debideen was shot dead while eating ice cream as he drove through the Grand Bazaar mall in Valsayn.
The shooting took place around 3.45 p.m.
According to police reports, while Debideen was driving out of Grand Bazaar, another car suddenly pulled in front of his.
Debideen was forced to stop his car.
A gunman exited the vehicle which was blocking Debideen and opened fire.
Debideen died on the spot.
The shooting sent shoppers and employees at the various stores scampering.
The gunman returned to his vehicle and drove out of the compound.
No one has been charged with this killing.

4. KNIFE ATTACK IN SCHOOL

On May 27, 14-year-old Renaldo Dixon, a Third Form pupil of the Waterloo Secondary School in Carapichaima, was fatally stabbed in a knife attack during the school’s recess break.
Dixon was allegedly attacked by a Fifth Form pupil who allegedly abandoned his Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) history exam.
An autopsy performed by pathologist Dr Valery Alexandrov found Dixon suffered a four-inch wound to the lower back, which punctured his left lung. Alexandrov said there were defensive wounds to Dixon’s arms, indicating he attempted to fight off his attacker.
Dixon was pronounced dead at the Freeport Health Centre.
A Fifth Form pupil of the Waterloo Secondary School is currently before the Couva Magistrates’ Court, charged with Dixon’s death.

5. FAMILY KILLED

On July 18, cattle farmer Berricou Subhan, 46, and two of his children were stabbed to death at their home at Ackbar Trace, South Oropouche, by Silvan Alladin, who was shot and killed by police while he was in the act of stabbing a third child.
Subhan’s daughter Sherifa, 14, and fiveyear- old son, Musa, were killed during the incident.
Subhan’s wife, Rasheeda Alladin, 33, sustained multiple stab wounds to her neck.
The couple’s nine-year-old daughter, Laylaa, was cut several times on her chest.
The only person to escape injury was seven-year-old Saleen.
Alladin was a 38-year-old drug addict with a criminal history.
He was the cousin of Rasheeda Alladin, and was raised by Subhan’s mother.

6. HIGHWAY HEIST

On November 27, a Sentinel Security Services van was robbed of millions in cash destined for Tobago for all of the island’s major commercial banks.
Veteran Sentinel Security guard Asst Estate Supt Bert Clarke, 59, was murdered in the robbery.
The driver who survived the robbery was questioned by detectives.
Investigators have observed the “sophisticated nature” and “clinical planning” of the heist.
Speaking at Clarke’s funeral, general manager of Sentinel Security Services, Edgar Hackett said Clarke sacrificed his life to save the driver of the security van.
Hackett said according to the report he received on the incident, when there was an impact on the cash-in-transit vehicle, Clarke
exited the van.
Hackett said Clarke did so to see if everything was all right with the occupants of the other vehicle.
Then Clarke saw four individuals with “sophisticated weaponry” running toward him. Clarke re-entered the security van.
Over 50 rounds of ammunition were fired, Hackett said.
While inside the vehicle one of the gunmen approached the driver and placed a gun to his head, Hackett said.
“Bert threw himself on the driver and in the process was shot in the head,” Hackett said.
No one has been charged.

7. KEYANA KILLED

On November 28, six-year-old Keyana Cumberbatch was found stuffed inside a barrel inside her family’s Building Four, Maloney
Gardens, apartment.
This gruesome discovery ended a four-day search for Cumberbatch.
On November 25, Cumberbatch’s mother, Simone Williams, reported her missing.
Cumberbatch was a pupil of the nearby St Barbara’s Shouter Baptist Primary School.
Cumberbatch’s stepfather, Dwayne Lewis, 28, is currently before the Arima Magistrates’ Court, charged with the murder of the girl.
Lewis spent a few days at Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex in Mt Hope following his arrest, battling asthma.
On December 16, Lewis appeared before Senior Magistrate Indrani Cedeno and has been ordered to be sent to the St Ann’s Hospital for a 14-day assessment.
He is to reappear in court next Monday.

8. BAR SHOOTING

On December 22, Lance Corporal Rawle Fletcher, a defender with the Defence Force Football Club, businessman Mitra Maharaj and teenaged student Anil Diram were all killed in a drive-by shooting outside a bar in
Preysal, Couva.
Fletcher, 34, was shot multiple times in the head, while his best friend, businessman Mitra Maharaj, was hit about the body.
Diram, a 19-year-old National Energy Skills Centre (NESC) student, was shot in the chest.
Police said Fletcher, of Polo Grounds Road, Preysal, was liming with Maharaj, of Orchard Gardens, Chaguanas, outside Sandy
Annan Bar, near Inshan Ali Park in Preysal, when they were killed around 3.25 a.m.
Diram, of Gran Couva, was walking to his friend’s car outside the bar when he was hit by a bullet. He was part of an all fours tournament
taking place at the bar.
Police said Fletcher and Maharaj were standing between two cars in the parking lot when a man walked up to them. He looked at Fletcher and smiled before returning to his vehicle.
Investigators said the car moved forward and then reversed, before the occupants opened fire on the men.
Patrons at the bar began running to safety, but Diram was caught in the gunfire.
Police said a back seat passenger walked out of the car, stood over Fletcher and Maharaj and shot them multiple times.
No one has been charged with the mur
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