A WASHINGTON DC-based think-tank is of the opinion violent gangs in Trinidad and Tobago have a stronger hold on the urban population than the Government does.
The Council of Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) conducted a study on Trinidad’s gang violence and referred to recent attacks in east Port of Spain and Laventille, stating “there is now a trend towards this so-called South American method of warfare in which beheadings and other extreme forms of justice are the norm in dealing with rival gangs”.
COHA claimed gang activity in Caribbean nations has “largely been ignored, despite the fact that gangs in Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago have become so ubiquitous that they represent a challenge to state sovereignty”.
It said the Government’s decision to “simply amp up the police force is not likely to hinder Trinidad’s persistent gang presence”.
“Violence is a serious problem in the islands, but targeting this alone will not make an effective reform,” it said, adding that “gangs in Trinidad and Tobago, specifically in high-risk areas, like the capital and Laventville, have become so institutionalised that they pose a threat to—and even control in some cases—the republic’s crucial infrastructures”.
COHA said gangs in the Caribbean, namely in Trinidad and Jamaica, have a “very unusual and ultimately far more dangerous effect on their surrounding areas”.
According to COHA, the gangs of Trinidad and Tobago have “infiltrated the official government and created an alternative administration—at least in urban centres—of violence and strict order, lacking any semblance of ethics or ability to address welfare”.
In response, National Security Minister Gary Griffith blamed State funding for the rise of gangs and said for years different administrations turned a blind eye to these projects and he was now going to do everything required to cut the gangs’ financial supply which they acquired through these contracts.
Griffith added that a disruption of the gangs’ money supply would “make it easy for us to attack them head on, because when you give them money their capita and their weapons supply are enhanced and it is irresponsible for any government official to allow this to happen”.
He said “many of these projects can be of value, but a proper audit needs to be done because the money is not going to who really needs it”.
“It seems that everybody knows who the gang members are but because of lack of trust people don’t want to give information, and what I want to do is embark on a massive strategy for people to provide information and give citizens the opportunity to provide the information that we need and they will be assured it will not affect them or their families,” said the minister.
“We are trying to break the fear and rebuild the trust and this includes white collar crime, so we need to rebuild the trust because the information we need is right here.
“I’ll be the main conduit and, in fact, if we don’t get them in one way we will get them in another because there are many other criminal acts they are involved in,” said Griffith.
COHA has been in existence for the last 38 years.