Fri | Dec 8, 2023

Police deny brokering truce among warring gangs in Trinidad

Published:Monday | November 20, 2023 | 9:26 AM
CMC photo.

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, CMC – A senior member of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) Monday dismissed suggestions that the law enforcement agency has been involved in getting warring gangs to reach a truce following a wave of savage killings along the East-West Corridor that has worsened in recent weeks.

The Trinidad Express newspaper reported that over the last 48 hours, with the help of senior police officials, officers from the Port of Spain Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) said they were able to arrange a peace deal between the gang bosses to stop the blood-letting.

“Both leaders we spoke with told us they both wanted peace. And in turn, sent messages through their own mediums to also give each other the reassurance that they wanted peace on the streets,” an unidentified IATF police officer told the newspaper.

But, speaking on a radio programme on Monday, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Curt Simon, told radio listeners that “the TTPS is not involved in any mediation, any facilitating, any encouraging of brokering of any deal any peace treaties or any such thing among gangs.

“That's an issue that has failed time and time throughout the different communities throughout the world, not just Trinidad and Tobago,” he said, adding “we are using the best practise as it relates to gang reduction and dismantling. We tend to be following those now,” Simon said.

Assistant Superintendent of Police, Roger Alexander, who was also on the radio programme, said that “we are not and will never negotiate with any criminal gang.

“We are not about mediating. We listen to all citizens,” he said, saying that the police have also been to the prisons to speak with individuals in jail, adding “It's about listening”.

The gang warfare has led to several murders over the past weeks, and last weekend, Commissioner of Police, Erla Christopher, said that the TTPS remains “very focused and intent on achieving the targets we have set for the reduction of criminal activities in Trinidad and Tobago.

“The criminals have made their intentions clear and so have we, and our message to them is, if you intend to be on the wrong side of the law, know that we are coming after you. The question is not if, but when we will get you.

“We will sustain our efforts to preserve and build on the successes we have achieved this year. Our various units will continue to conduct strategic intelligence-led exercises in the upcoming weeks through Christmas and into the New Year,” she said, adding that “we will maintain the intensity of our operations to protect our young people and to give all citizens the confidence and assurance that we are working to ensure their safety and security.”

The police said that they have conducted various crime eradication exercises and that several gang leaders and gang members were detained and stolen vehicles recovered along with illegal firearms.

Simon told radio listeners that while the police are not involved in brokering any truce among gangs “that does not negate the fact that we may become aware of such conversations between gangs”.

He noted that there are serious consequences for being a member of a gang under the law.

“There are offences such as enciting persons to join gangs, there are offences relating to facilitators…there are a number of offences related to gangs and the penalties are in fact harsh and we work within the remit of the law and within that law there isn't any facility for the police to be mediators of gang truce.”

He said he agreed with callers to the radio station that police engaging in truce negotiations could be seen as a failure on the part of the law enforcement agency and reiterated that efforts by police in other countries to mediate truces have not succeeded.

“They all fell apart quickly. We do not have to go through that. In the TTPS, there are a number of avenues in dealing with crime, in dealing with gangs, and we are looking at all of those different approaches as it relates to solving and even dismantling and reducing the impacts of gangs,” Simon added.

Trinidad and Tobago has recorded more than 500 murders so far this year, after recording 605 last year.

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