Crime economist Anslem Richards is calling on the Prime Minister, National Security Minister Stuart Young and Police Commissioner Gary Griffith to devise strategies to stop the gun violence in Tobago.
“We have to make sure we have the appropriate resources necessary to stop the development in Tobago,” he told Newsday on Wednesday. “We cannot leave this to fester any deeper in our society. It has to be treated as a priority for the law enforcement community.”
Richards was responding to Monday night’s shooting near Egypt Junction, Bethel, which claimed the life of Ryan Thornhill. Three other men were seriously injured and are being treated at the Scarborough General Hospital.
Richards described the shooting as unfortunate, saying it should be of concern to every Tobagonian.
“This is an emerging trend that started a couple of years ago where we are seeing a proliferation of small firearms and an associated impact of gun violence on the island.”
He recalled former ACP, Tobago Division, Garfield Moore, had also alluded to an emerging trend of gun violence on the island. Richards said Moore had also said that because of the small size of the population, the impact would be devastating on Tobago’s social life.
“So therefore, this development is just a continuation of that observation, and therefore law enforcement has to take every action appropriately necessary to really apprehend and defeat this situation.”
He said the shooting would affect the island’s tourism-based economy.
“That cannot be comforting to any Tobagonian. and more so an island that is trading and surviving on tourism services.
“This is a negative impact to the economy on the longer term. So therefore, we have to put our resources together to see how we can really put a dent on crime in general and more so gun violence on the island.”
Richards said reducing violent crime in Tobago requires the efforts of everybody in the society.
“It has to be a social effort at the level of the community, married with law enforcement efforts. It is not a one-size-fit-all.”
Churches and community groups will have a significant role to play, he said.
Richards reiterated his call for the borders between TT to be tightened.
“For me, what we have is a spillover effect from what had happened in Trinidad for the last 25-30 years with the gun violence. You have a migration of that into Tobago now.”
He said there are no deep searches for illegal items being carried out at the Port of Scarborough to prevent small arms and ammunition from coming to Tobago.
“You will get the odd marijuana. But there needs to be a vehicle X-ray machine at the Port of Scarborough and the Port of Port of Spain for vehicles coming to Tobago, so we can see what is coming and what is leaving the island. We have been saying that for decades.”