AS MUCH as society seems to have become inured to the activities of gangs, we cannot turn a blind eye to the frightening situation laid bare by the recent spate of gang-related criminal activity in east Port of Spain.
On Wednesday, a garbage man was chased and gunned down on Laventille Road. Residents said he was killed simply because he was on turf being protected by gangsters.
Police have said that gangs have created zones where violence and death await anyone crossing over into the wrong zone. Such is the situation that police escorts must now be provided to companies operating in certain areas.
Long have murders been blamed on acts of retribution or warfare between gang members.
But the indiscriminate targeting of ordinary people – garbage men, utility workers and passers-by – within so-called “no-go zones” represents an alarming attack on the rights and freedoms of every citizen.
“Anybody can get it,” a resident in East Port of Spain lamented, echoing the view of many who have for decades been fearful of gangs and criminal elements.
Time after time there have been calls for the Government to come to grips with this problem. The issue of gang activity has bedevilled government after government. It is hard, from the vantage point of the man in the street, to see the progress that has been made behind the scenes, over the years, by various arms of law enforcement.
The State’s approach to gangs has by this stage involved almost every measure imaginable.
At various points, prime ministers held court with gang leaders in hotel ballrooms, then there were suspect work schemes, questionable sporting initiatives, establishment of committees, commissioning of reports, new intelligence strategies, and, most recently, the promulgation of legislation.
What has this brought us?
Gangs are entrenched and everyone knows this. That crime continues unabated in the midst of a pandemic and state of emergency tells us that the State needs to review its strategies urgently.
How effective has anti-gang legislation been? What of other legal measures such as those relating to firearms offences? Wednesday’s murder was yet another instance of a gun crime.
The State needs to aggressively improve the investigative capacity of law enforcement authorities, be more effective at stopping the flow of illicit guns, and speedily bring to justice – in untainted legal proceedings – those charged with the commission of crime.
We have now reached the point where people in a community can’t even cross a road into another part of the very same community without risking being gunned down.
If left unchecked, it is the very authority of the State that is placed at risk.