Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith says he plans to continue dressing in operational wear for field operations. He made the comment yesterday during a visit to Bon Air Gardens, Arouca, where officers had hours earlier conducted several raids for suspects involved in a string of gang-related murders.
“I dress like my troops. What I wear is minor to how I perform. I would not have my troops do what I would not do myself, if my troops are in operation I would be with them,” Griffith told the media at the end of the 24-hour police exercise he named “Operation Strike Back”.
He said the operation became necessary as the community was living under siege following six murders 10 days in addition to other serious crimes, but admitted such exercises would not always be possible.
He said the officers had targeted the community after gaining intelligence. He said clinical policing based on this intelligence had assisted them in targeting certain individuals.
Noting that the 85-plus officers involved in the exercise also had support from the Air Division, he said, “We have been able to mobilise the asset and utilise resources of the Ministry of National Security so that the police can perform in an effective and efficient manner. This is not a case of taxpayers increasing their cost, what is increasing is professional policing in intelligence-driven operations. So this is an operation that was well orchestrated and we would have seen it by the 85-plus officers on the ground with logistic equipment.”
The exercise began around 10 pm on Saturday and ended on Sunday around 10 am.
Asked if he has any contingency plan in place for possible action by the unions in response to the Petrotrin restructuring, he said this should be addressed by the Minister of National Security.
Supt Mc Donald Jacob, of Northern Division, told T&T Guardian the operation resulted in the arrest of 24 people and the seizure of three firearms and 25 rounds of ammunition. Three of the arrested suspects were held in connection with the recent spate of murders.
Meanwhile, Arouca/Maloney MP Camille Robinson-Regis is linking the killings in the Bon Air district to the stalled construction of a community centre in the area.
In a statement yesterday, Robinson-Regis said after getting information she contacted Griffith for assistance for the community.
“I contacted the Commissioner of Police requesting the intervention of the police in the Bon Air Gardens area, where there has been an upsurge in criminal activity which seems to linked to the contact for the construction in the area of a much-needed community centre,” she said.
The Bon Air South Community Centre project which Robinson-Regis is referring to was pegged at $10.4 million and was expected to be handed over by August 2018. However, weeks before the building was completed the main contractor walked off the project because gangs in the area were demanding for protection money. A sub-contractor took over the project but was also forced to abandon it after he said a gun was pointed at him on the site and protection money was also demanded.
Robinson-Regis yesterday confirmed the job has still not yet been awarded to a new contractor but that the Urban Development Company of Trinidad and Tobago (UDeCott) was working on selecting one.
With regards to the lockdown, Robinson-Regis also thanked Acting Commissioner of Police Jacobs for his assistance.