They’re pushing crime panic

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MINISTER of National Security Stuart Young said yesterday there are «certain people» involved in pushing the crime wave «because they want to create a sense of fear and panic about runaway crime».

And he asked who had a vested interest in creating this environ­ment, as well as panic and fear, among the general population and «in promoting the criminal element to go out and harm society».

Speaking at the post-Cabinet news conference at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, Young said the police were pursuing investigations along these lines and had been making progress.

He categorised the two types of crime the country was witnessing.

Gang-related crime, he noted, has been an integral part of the crime scene for some time.

He cited the shootings in Port of Spain on December 31 and the shooting in East Port of Spain on Wednesday as a manifestation of this.

But the minister pointed to a new trend involving a number of incidents taking place which appear to be random shootings at people not involved, «as far as we are aware», in criminal activity.

He said towards the end of last year, there was the emergence of these random shootings across the East-West Corridor, in particular, that were not gang-related or criminal activity-related, and he drew this to the attention of law enforcement.

He said in one specific incident, a couple, around 9 p.m., were in a vehicle talking to someone who was behind a fence and a car pulled up and shot randomly at them.

«And I put down a marker—why is it suddenly people are driving along certain main roads and are being shot it? Police officers were shot at and there is absolutely no intelligence or link of them to any­thing.

«We then began to put certain pieces of the puzzle together, that there are certain people in our society who want to create the impression and create a sense of fear and panic in T&T about what they call the runaway rate of crime. And we began to work backwards with that,» he said.

Who benefits from crime?

Young wondered aloud about who stood to derive the most benefit from the fear and anxiety created by this kind of criminality.

He cited an incident on Old Year’s Day where an off-duty police officer drew his service pistol and fired back at a carload of men who were using automatic rifles in the middle of Port of Spain, but assaulting no criminals.

«The law enforcement agencies and intelligence agencies are conducting the necessary investigations and are looking into the links that are taking place between certain persons in our society and criminal elements, and progress is being made in that direction.

«At the appropriate time, I am certain that the (Trinidad and Tobago Police Service) will inform the public as to what is happening there, and who it is in our society that is actively pursuing communications with the criminal element to push crime in a certain way,» Young said.

The minister stressed the claim was based on sound intelligence received locally.

He ruled out a state of emergency as a way to address the crime situation.

Asked whether statements some months ago about the resurfacing of a former minister «in a political climate, along with the criminal ele­ment», or his allegation that sitting members of Parliament were meeting with gang elements were connected with this development, Young avoided a direct response.

He reiterated his claim that these remained areas of serious concern, with the latter being a matter which «should be investigated by the authorities».

He also said his statements about the criminal element conver­sing with the Opposition, in relation to the choice of local government election candidates, was also a matter of concern, adding he didn’t make these things up.

It was information brought directly to him, he said.

Young said the TTPS, at the appropriate time, will give a disaggregation of the crime statistics and how the murders add up or don’t add up.

«There is more in the mortar than the pestle,» he said.

Enforcer, drug pusher,

drug dealer

Commenting on the shooting which took place early yesterday morning in East Trinidad, in which three young men were killed and another one injured, Young said he had a report from the TTPS on this matter.

«Yes, unfortunately, a 15-year-old boy was involved. But I will say this much in the information provided to me as Minister of National Security. Persons involved and now deceased have been categorised as ‘enforcer’ (the shooter in a criminal gang), drug pusher, drug dealer.»

He said the Government was very concerned and was working meticulously and assiduously to address the crime situation.

He said it was wrong for anyone to try and sell the narrative that Government had not been doing everything to tackle crime.

He cited some of the initiatives.

He said one was the Bail Amendment Bill, which has passed in the Senate and will come before the House, where anyone caught with an automatic weapon or assault rifle will get no bail for 120 days.

To those who want the population to believe this measure is draconian, he said he wanted to draw attention to Barbados where the Parliament passed legislation in which anyone found with an illegal firearm was denied bail for 24 months.

Young said more would be revealed in the coming months, and he looked forward to the population being provided with the fullest information on who in society stood to gain from pushing the narrative of a homicide toll going up, and why there were incidents «all of a sudden of certain sporadic shooting at persons not involved in gang or criminal activity».

LINK ORIGINAL: Trinidad Express