CITIZENS across the country have flooded the authorities with a flurry of tip-offs of suspected cases of human-trafficking, Stuart Young, Minister of National Security, told reporters yesterday.
At the post-Cabinet briefing at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, he attested to an outpouring of public concern by citizens deeply perturbed by the discovery of a ring of traffickers exploiting 19 Spanish-speaking girls aged from as young as 15, all believed to be from South America.
Several units of the Police Service on Wednesday raided a casino and restaurant in Curepe and a restaurant in Woodbrook, plus several private houses including in Westmoorings, to rescue the girls being drugged and kept as sex slaves.
Newsday asked if this sex-ring was a one-off aberration or whether the police need to maintain vigilance for other instances. Young said, “It is at the top of the radar. Since yesterday (Wednesday) there has been a flood of info from all over the country to the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service as regards illegal activity.”
He said the TTPS’ Counter Trafficking Unit has an ongoing outreach programme to raise public awareness. Young said the authorities are trying to lock down the country’s borders, suggesting this could be done by utilising more and more technology such as setting up CCTV cameras along the coastline.
He recalled a recent video on social media of wannabe human-traffickers complaining about a high presence of the Coast Guard, whom the criminals derided as “panty blockers.”
Asked if he had enough resources to do the job of curbing human-trafficking, Young replied “no”, but added that he would do his best with what he has, by such means as focusing on intelligence-driven policing.
While still investigating how the girls got into Trinidad, by conducting interviews with the help of interpreters, he said they were largely minors and all are victims so he did not want them sent to the Immigration Detention Centre (IDC) in Wallerfield.
“They will be treated with humanity,” Young assured. He said some of the perpetrators are non-nationals and added that not all of the girls found, were trafficking victims.