Between 2014 and this year, gangs in T&T have increased 129 per cent and gang members have increased 60 per cent, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi says.
He gave the information while piloting anti-gang legislation in Parliament yesterday. This requires a special majority vote and Opposition support for passage.
Al-Rawi said he was angry at the Opposition’s reported refusal to support the bill when crime is at an all time high.
“And we’ re seeing an exponential rise in gang activity,” he said.
He said in 2014 the acting Police Commissioner had said there were 92 gangs with 1,500 members.
“In 2016 it grew to 172 gangs and 2,358 members – today it’s 211 gangs and 2,458 members,” he said.
Gang-related murders totalled 998 between 2010 and this year and the number of gang-related guns seized in T&T stands at 4,674. Some 1,195 firearms were seized since 2016 alone, he said. Al-Rawi reiterated the number of gangs and their members in the nine police divisions ranging from 49 (Western) to nine (Eastern). There are also 221 members in the Witness Protection Programme, he noted.
In the bill’s first incarnation during the People’s Partnership Government’s tenure, he said 463 were arrested under the law during the 2011 state of emergency (SoE). But 213 were released by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and 142 received gang-related charges. There are still 33 cases in the Magistrate’s Court and 40 in the High Court.
“The 142 charged in the SoE involved well-known people, including the infamous Rajaee Ali,” he said.
Al-Rawi said Justice Nolan Bereaux noted that proving gang membership under the law wasn’t easy. Of those arrested in the SoE, 213 were released because evidence behind arrests weren’t proven.
He added,”The courts didn’t say it was bad law.”
He said the 18-clause bill was largely repeats of clauses from the last Anti-Gang legislation, save one. Under that, it will be an offence to have retaliatory action by gangs against a person.
Noting Jamaica’s opposition has supported their anti-gang law, he berated T&T’s Opposition for saying “no law, let’s talk more – but there have been 709 murders since August 2016.”
He said a National Prosecution Agency – involving the DPP and police – and the Deosaran Police Manpower Audit recommendation concerning constitutional reform of service commissions, is part of Government’s anti-crime thrust.