ARIMA MP Pennelope Beckles has arranged a meeting for her constituents and the Commissioner of Police on Thursday to discuss the apparent impending closure of one or more police stations in the area.
Late last year, CoP Griffith announced plans to “repurpose” police stations and have police on more patrols, similar to those proposed in former police commissioner Dwayne Gibbs’s 21st-century policing scheme in 2011.
But the idea has upset residents of a number of districts in the Northern Division, especially rural areas and communities affected by various types of crime.
Anthony De Silva, a former policeman, speaking on behalf of the Santa Rosa Community Council, told Newsday residents have been seeking a meeting since late last year, and through Beckles, they will get to discuss their concerns at the Santa Rosa Government School, from 6 pm.
The stations are being repurposed to accommodate various arms of the police service which do not respond to robberies and other emergencies. Some units are well-established, such as the Guard and Emergency Branch, and others, like the Gender Based Violence Unit, are new and need offices.
“The people in Santa Rosa feel a lot safer with the police station there. The statistics show there is a very low incident rate in the Santa Rosa, Pinto Road district controlled by the Pinto Road Police Post,” De Silva said. “Now, I think the reason for that low crime rate is because of the presense of that police post, Because having been in Santa Rosa for 35 years, we had a lot of robberies and home invasions, and that is how the station end up there.”
De Silva said he was among those who lobbied for a station in the area in the 1990s, when John Eckstein was Minister of National Security.
Santa Rosa is surrounded by La Horquetta, Pinto Road proper and Malabar, areas, he said, which have higher rates of crime, spilling into their area. “There were a lot of break-ins earlier on.” The commissioner has said repurposing posts and station will not adversely affect policing.
However, De Silva said, “Gary’s idea is like in the States, when you call 911, you see two, three cars pull up. We don’t have the infrastructure, one, and that is not our culture, two. We are accustomed going to the police station.
“The feedback we are getting is that the residents of Santa Rosa Heights, Pinto – the areas serviced by the Santa Rosa Police Post – are not in agreement with that closing or repurposing of that station, regardless of what unit they’re bringing there.”
Arima is one of the largest constituencies in the country and accounts for a considerable portion of the Northern Division, which has recorded the highest number of serious crimes in most categories by police division in the country.
Other areas where residents have expressed fear over the uncertainty of a permanent police presence in their areas include Brasso, Blanchisseuse, Moriah and others.
Blanchisseuse residents recently held a town hall meeting, with several people objecting to such decisions being made for the community, but without consulting the residents and businesses.