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Acting Deputy Commissioner of Police Wendell Williams addresses members of the media during the police briefing at the Police Administration building, Port-of-Spain, yesterday.

There is concern that some gang members are fronting as religious leaders to influence young people into a life of crime.

Acting Deputy Police Commissioner, Wendell Williams said these people are using “false charisma” to recruit gang members.

“Some persons who influence religion say that they are leaders in such and, then decide to encourage people to do crime,” Williams lamented.

“The question in my mind is the one who created us, does he back up crime and evil,” he questioned.

Williams is clear that it is not all religious leaders.

“The thing is, I do not want to sensationalize religious leaders but to identify the fact that you have individuals who purport to be holding that which is noble yet encouraging people down paths of just pure evil,” he lamented.

While he did not want to identify any religious group involved in such activities, he said, “We have had a history of certain things so clearly there is evidence that certain people use this as a medium to influence others.”

“The fact of the matter is we have to get our young people’s minds focused in the right direction and, so it’s not just an issue of focusing or identifying where the suasion in gangs exists and dealing with that,” he added.

Meanwhile, Acting Police Commissioner, McDonald Jacob is promising to push back against criminal gangs and white-collar criminals this year.

This as he outlined several strategic plans the TTPS will be embarking on this year, including maximizing the TTPS’ use of the anti-gang legislation.

For the past four years, Trinidad and Tobago has recorded murders averaging between 430 and 440 people per year.

“This demonstrates to us that we need to do more in-depth analysis,” Jacob admitted.

For the year thus far, there have been 25 murders. However, Williams said January tends to be a bloody month with murders averaging between 46 and 60 over the last four years.

“For the month of January in 2021 we had 25, (in) 2020 we had 46, (in) 2019 there was 40, (in) 2018 we had 60 and in 2017, 52,” he revealed.

“I only bring these figures just to say don’t be alarmed even though we are,” Williams added.

The Northern Division continues to be an area of concern recording the highest crime rate as such, Acting Deputy Police Commissioner, Earla Christopher said a decision has been taken to divide the division into two: Northern Division – North and Northern Division – North/Central.

More resources are expected to be pumped into these divisions which cover 51,000 households.

Christopher said the TTPS expects that this will reduce violent crimes over the next three months.

Last year police seized 680 illegal guns and over 12,000 rounds of assorted ammunition. A total of 976 people were also charged with possession of illegal guns and related offences.

Noting that there are too many guns in the country, Jacob also promised to keep an eye on firearm dealers, trainers and ranges. He noted that there are gaps in the legal system that need to be tighten.

The Financial Standards Bureau is also expected to be playing a “very active” role this year as according to Jacob, there are serious issues of money laundering.

— Bavita Gopaulchan