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Saturday 23 June 2018
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SHOW OF FORCE

Dillon leads security forces on Laventille walk

ON THE MOVE: Soldiers walk along Erica Street in Laventille during a walkabout by the top brass of the country’s national security agencies. PHOTO BY ANGELO MARCELLE

ONE DAY after a “hit list” of Rasta City gang members circulated on social media amidst talk of an impending bloody showdown with the rival Unruly ISIS gang, National Security Minister Edmund Dillon led a contingent of the top brass in national security on a walkabout yesterday in Laventille.

The walkabout, which included visits to known Rasta City territory was meant to send a message to the criminals – the State security agencies are in charge.

But many people living in Laventille yesterday disagreed, saying the fact that they have to live in a self-imposed curfew after dark and there is the constant fear of being murdered once you step out on the road, means the criminals are in charge.

Joining Dillon on the walk were acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams, Chief of Defence Staff Commodore Hayden Pritchard and Laventille West MP Fitzgerald Hinds. They were guarded by a phalanx of heavily armed policemen and soldiers.

Shortly after 10 am, the contingent walked from Erica Street along Old St Joseph Road to the top of Rock City in Laventille. Rock City, Laventille residents whispered to Newsday, is one of the bases of the so-called Muslim gang. Rasta City is based lower down the hill.

Several black, heavily tinted SUVs belonging to various arms of law enforcement drove in convoy behind the minister. Both gangs, according to residents, have set up unmarked boundaries known to both sides and venturing into the other “territory” usually means death by bullets.

This has impacted on ordinary residents who have now become trapped in their homes fearful that they could be the target of a stray bullet. This is exactly what played out last Friday night along Old St Joseph Road and Erica Street when gunmen opened fire when they saw people whom they did not recognised. The three murder victims were schoolboy Joshua James, 16, who was playing a video game in his home when he was shot; the second was Carlos Abraham, 38, shot while at a friend’s birthday party and the third was Curtis Hepburn, 49, who took a chance and ventured on the road to urinate in a track. All three were not members of any gang.

SEND A STRONG MESSAGE

Dillon said the walkabout was intended to send a strong message to the criminals as well as to interact with the bereaved families of the three murder victims.

“Yes it is intended to show the community that they have the support of the various agencies of the national security ministry,” Dillon said. He added that a firm approach is needed to deal with the criminal elements.

“There will be a law enforcement approach with respect to the Police Service supported by the Defence Force because we are dealing with individuals who feel they can take their illegal guns and bring trauma to various communities.

“There must be a hard approach to treat with them because when you take an illegal gun in your hand, it’s not to play cricket and I can say without fear of contradiction, the entities of national security will take that fight to these individuals,” Dillon said.

During his walk, Dillon interacted with a resident who runs a small shop. The man gave his name to Newsday but because of what he had to say, this newspaper decided not to publish his name. The man told Dillon that in all his years living in Laventille, he has never seen anything like this before in the area.

“People afraid to buy, they afraid to come out of their houses. Innocent people are dying up here for nothing. People who are not in these criminal gangs, are getting killed in the cross fire,” the man said. He urged Dillon to set up police posts throughout Laventille.

HIT LIST PROBE

In response to the “hit list” containing the names of Rasta City gang members being circulated on social media, both Dillon and commissioner Williams said they too have seen it and the matter is being investigated. Williams told reporters one cannot jump to conclusions and it has to be properly investigated to verify whether the information contained is true.

Questioned as to whether law enforcement is bracing for bloodshed after Eid ul Fitr tomorrow, Williams said while that kind of talk is being circulated on social media, “that is not consistent with the position of the Police Service supported by the Defence Force.” In other words, he said, law enforcement is ready to treat with any eventualities to ensure the nation’s safety and to maintain the rule of law. He said both the police and soldiers have been working hard in various communities to ensure the country is safe as can be. Williams said the Police Service is utilising all of its resources to provide safety and security to all citizens. Dillon said a National Crime Prevention programme is to be launched “soon” in crime hot spot areas, but what this plan entails, he did not want to state.

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