THOUGH he came with guns blazing, Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith opened yesterday’s eagerly awaited media conference on the police’s measures to control crime by wishing everyone Happy Valentine’s Day.
“Yes, it is Valentine’s Day and it is pure love,” Griffith said. “It is not pure hate. What the TT Police Service is doing is in no way a degree of intimidation or profiling. What we are doing is to make sure we defend our country. We have a nation to defend and I ask all citizens to continue to support us.”
It was a touch that betrayed the commissioner’s poise as he provided much-needed clarification on the red alert he had placed the police service on hours before. We welcome Griffith’s clarification.
The commissioner explained the alert applies not to national security as a whole, but specifically to the police service. The degree of alertness moves from green to amber to red then black, he said, meaning the second-highest level has been designated. And this designation has been made, according to Griffith, on “threat assessments.”
Nowhere, however, was there any acknowledgment of the right of citizens to be deeply concerned over the frightening escalation of violence within areas of Port of Spain such as Beetham and Sea Lots over the last few days. That escalation has pushed the murder toll in the division to about a dozen, 12 times as much for the same period last year. This suggests the approach must be more than the bluster offered yesterday.
However, we welcome the clear signal sent by all members of the police top brass at yesterday’s conference that the police service has not been approaching this issue on a discriminatory basis. Rather, a suite of nationwide exercises has been executed.
The results, some might say, are noteworthy. There were 27 arrests in 72 hours, including, according to the police, “several gang leaders who were responsible for plotting, collaborating and giving instructions to create mayhem in Port of Spain.” It is hoped, however, these arrests can be followed by meaningful convictions in court, as well as a more long-lasting disruption of criminal networks. About 30 warrants were also executed, 105 tickets issued, and 359 vehicles stopped and searched.
Yet, what will matter in the coming weeks is the degree of violence on our streets. In this regard, a confident, though weary-looking, Griffith said the violence has been due to “a few individuals.”
“I refer to them as punks,” he said. Effectively cutting off the conditions that have allowed these punks to thrive and seeing them persecuted in a court of law would be the real, more enduring Valentine’s Day gift to us all.