There has been an exponential rise in gang activity since the anti gang bill expired in August last year with 709 murders recorded and 1,195 firearms seized for the same period says Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi.
“What we can say is that in Trinidad and Tobago, we have an interesting situation where every month that we talk, is murder upon murder, crime upon crime,” he said.
Making the case for the reintroduction of the “anti gang bill” in the House of Representatives to discourage membership of criminal gangs and to suppress criminal gang activity and related matters, Al-Rawi urged the Opposition to support it noting that the major provisions were taken from the previous piece of legislation that were enacted under the previous government, now in opposition.
The Opposition, he said, has asked for an analysis of data on gangs and gang-related activities in order to give their support.
As such, he said, statistics provided by the acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams, in an affidavit, has shown that gang-related murders during 2010 to 2017 are estimated at 998. Firearms seizures are close to 4,674 for the same period, he said.
The statistics, he said, also estimate that in 2014 there were 92 gangs with a membership of 1,500 and in 2016 the number of gangs had grown to 179 and 2,038 gang members.
By November 30 this year, he said, the gangs numbered 211 with a membership of 2,459.
Comparing the numbers in 2014 to 2017, Al-Rawi said, “The number of gangs have increased by 129 per cent and gang members increased by 36 per cent.”
Noting that gangs were not found in one location, he said, according to police divisions, North Eastern had 15 gangs with 256 members; Port of Spain, 41 gangs, 574 members; Central Division, ten gangs, 106 members; Southern, 19 gangs, 202 members; Eastern, 9 gangs, 121 members; Northern, 23 gangs, 324 members; South Western, 21 gangs, 178 members; Western, 49 gangs, 533 members; and Tobago, 24 gangs, 190 members.
The fact that the gangs are identified by street names, gang leaders and members, he said, was because the PNM Government amended the Strategic Services Agency (SSA) Act and changed the focus of intelligence to include serious crimes including gang related activity in addition to narcotics which it provided for.
The rise in gang activity, he said, has also been measured in the creation of agencies such as the Organised Crime Intelligence Unit (OCIU) as part of the Organised Crime Narcotics and Firearms Bureau, and the Criminal Gang Intelligence Unit.
An additional 159 officers, he said, were added to the OCIU.
Government also supported the active placement of witnesses into the justice protection programme.
The witness protection programme, he said, has 221 persons in it. “All that would come to nought,” he said, if the country does not enact anti gang laws.
At present, he said, there are 40 gang related cases in the High Court, 33 in the magistrates’ courts and 142 are outstanding.
Speaking about the bill which has 18 clauses, he said, “This law is good law.”