Vice-president of the Crown Point Business Association Shirley Cooke has complained that police resources are used more readily to respond to crimes against tourists than those affecting Tobagonians.
Speaking at a stakeholders' consultation on crime at Scarborough Library last Friday, Cooke told the forum: "The message needs to be sent in this island that the safety of the citizens is paramount – even though we have visitors who come here, we need to make our citizens in Tobago feel safe before anybody else could come in here."
She explained, "I find they use too many resources and energy when is somebody outside of Tobago that is hurt. When is a tourist, everybody responds. That needs to stop. Because if we have pride and concern for our space in Tobago, the guys in the villages would not let anybody come in there and affect their lifestyle."
Cooke called for technology to assist the police, particularly in commercial areas.
"We need to have in Tobago more of the surveillance systems. It takes too long when a camera system is down, because presently it has been over a week they removed a camera outside of my business place, and that is unacceptable."
Cooke, who has been vocal about issues affecting Tobago business owners, said the island requires a different kind of policing, and officers assigned to community policing unit need to connect more with the public.
"It is time we utilise our community centres as a base for policing in Tobago. Community centres are left idle and are a waste of space in communities."
Cooke said efforts should also be made to implement a satellite feed so that citizens can listen and contribute to media conferences involving members of the police.
Voice of Tobago political leader Cori Roberts spoke about an initiative he conceptualised to help fight crime in communities. He said the initiative, Outreach Community Policing, will allow the police to work more closely with NGOs and village councils. Roberts said police officers will be stationed at each community centre in Tobago and make daily patrols around villages, and surveillance cameras will be set up at strategic points in all communities.
"And there will be a base to monitor suspicious activities," he said.
Canaan/Bon Accord social activist Lyndon Mack, who organised the consultation, said the objective is to draft a strategic development plan to address crime in communities.
"We are seeing basically that we have a rise in crime on the island. Statistics will show that we have seen a rise in murders. We have seen a rise in larceny, based on the ministry's website, theft. These are some of the crimes that are affecting the island," he said.
Mack said there is also a trend of people committing crimes because of personal grievances.
"If not dealt with, it can become an ongoing situation of crime where it can be assault and battery, or it could be murder, theft. These are some of the potential outcomes when things are not really dealt with."