N Touch
Tuesday 16 July 2019
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A fake police station

FAKE THINGS seem popular these days. Fake news. Fake oil. Fake internet profiles. And now a fake police station.

Questions must be asked as to how, within plain sight, people could have transformed a residence in Diego Martin into a sham law enforcement hub.

This strange detail in the ongoing Venezuelan migration saga emerged over the weekend in reports of the rescue, by very real police officers, of four people who had been kidnapped and held in a building outfitted with trimmings normally associated with the police.

As though leaping out of the pages of a VS Naipaul story, the building was bedecked with blue stripes and the Star of David, which, incidentally, was adopted by the TTPS as an official emblem a decade ago in circumstances historians are still puzzling out.

Not puzzling though is the nefarious use to which such a building could be put. Presumably, the disguise would be useful for criminal elements wishing to lure unsuspecting people under false pretences, especially non-English-speaking foreigners who might not be able to intuit the nuances of how police divisions are currently set up and manned.

It’s an offence under the Police Service Act to impersonate a police officer. Is it an offence to impersonate a police station? Presumably, the spirit of the law dictates such set pieces would be part and parcel of any impersonation and, therefore, forbidden.

At a time when concerns about fake police abounds, when criminals are regularly caught knocking on doors pretending to be officers, whether of the Defence Force or otherwise, it’s disconcerting no action was taken to prevent this sham building from taking shape and subsisting for so long.

Town and Country planners should be empowered to ensure structures are kept in line with standards that serve the community. That should mean intervening or alerting authorities to premises that do not conform to these standards, whether judged against law, practice or policy. It’s instructive the police have been engaged in a meticulous process of changing the police uniform. How could something as brazen as this house escape sanction for so long?

As the controversy over wealth legislation demonstrated this month, there are, indeed, complications when it comes to intervening in a private property. Homeowners are allowed to paint in whatever colours they like. They are free to decorate their gates in whatever way suits their fancy. These are the hallmarks of the right to property.

But just as the owners of vehicles cannot adopt the colours of police patrols, so too must proprietors be forbidden from turning their castles into lock-ups. That we have reached a stage where this must now be explicitly spelled out is the crowning irony.

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