This past weekend, a purported threat by gangsters in and around the Port-of-Spain area to destabilise the capital city and, by extension, the country, was swiftly dealt with by Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith.
The head of the Police Service commanded his officers to detain several “persons of interests,” whom he confronted and sternly warned about the consequences of criminal activity, after a supposed truce by gangs last year began to crack.
Since March last year, a large portion of our lives in T&T has been focused on COVID-19.
Many of the ills and challenges the nation faced before then have been all but forgotten, as everyone worked to avoid spreading the virus and doing their best to overcome what has indeed been a troubling time.
But we cannot ignore the scourge of gang violence and the deadly danger it poses.
Since the early 2000s, gangs and gangland crimes have been on the rise in this country. In 2006, a study done revealed there were close to 100 gangs with more than 1,000 members spread across the country.
Over the years, gang killings have been responsible for a lion’s share of the murders in the country and even claimed the lives of innocent bystanders who were caught in the cross-hairs of gangsters.
Before the nation ushered in 2020, 2019 ended with a gun rampage in the capital city, as gangsters opened fire on one another and then the police, leaving Lystra Hernandez dead and ten others injured.
As a result of gang violence, residents in “hot spot” communities have also fled their homes, while others live life under the thumbs of gangsters.
These gangs have also lured youth, offering the temptation of quick, easy money and a life of respect by fear. Some have even branched out using the spoils from their criminal enterprise to fund community drives, businesses and according to some—music.
Only yesterday, local dancehall artiste Taryll “Prince Swanny” Swan sought to distance himself from the latest alleged criminal gang plot to destabilise the country and insisted he had no affiliation to any criminal gang.
Despite the indefatigable work of Commissioner Griffith, who has spearheaded numerous arrests of gangsters, it is clear much more has to be done to minimise the threat of gangs in this country.
The recent failure to extend the Anti-Gang Bill in Parliament by the nation’s representatives served as a major blow in the war on gangs.
The events of this weekend, however, may well be an indication that it is time to put aside partisan politics and come up with a workable solution to ensure the police have even more legal teeth to tackle these criminals head-on.
After all, with months of working from home and fighting COVID-19, the last thing a fatigued population would want is to another fight for survival against a threat of gangsters who cannot be combated with a vaccine.