THERE are at least 25 gangs operating in the Northern Division, police said on Thursday, and they will be using both hard and soft policing in addressing this.
Speaking at the police media briefing at the Police Administration Building, Sackville Street, Port of Spain on Thursday, Insp Ishmael Pitt said based on their intelligence there are approximately 25 criminal gangs in the division, with two warring gangs in the Tunapuna area.
In the past six months there has been increased gang war in the division, with many of the killings taking place in Tunapuna . At least eight people were murdered, some targeted, others “collateral damage,” in the ongoing feud between Rasta City and the “Upper Tunapuna Gang.”
Pitt said the gang violence in the area is fuelled by the drug trade in both marijuana and cocaine. He said while possession of small amounts marijuana was legalised and homes are allowed to have four plants per adult, there is still a black-market demand for marijuana. He added that the police have increased their focus on drug blocks to stifle the gangs.
Pitt said like the Upper Tunapuna Gang, many of the gangs in the division are known by their geographical names, with no set identity such as the Rasta City, ABG, Muslim and other well known gangs.
To combat gangs in Tunapuna and the division by extension, Pitt said police are using a multi-pronged approach with both hard and soft policing.
“There are a lot of persons being attracted to gangs, and it’s an issue worrying for us, and I can imagine for society. So for that reason, the youth groups, the community outreach programmes – we are depending on these bodies to assist us in the softer side of policing on how can we impact the younger minds and dissuade them from wanting to become gangsters. So instead of only having to treat with the symptoms, we also want to treat with the cause.”
Head of the division Snr Supt Brian Ramphall, who was also at the media conference, said there has been an uptick in gang activity in the Arima police district too.
“Murders are our greatest challenge and much of our resources are put into curbing killings in terms of allocation of manpower and getting vehicles for patrols, etc. We are working with other entities in the service, with the Defence Force and other agencies, and that has been bearing fruit in saturating certain areas with a police presence.”
The Arima district is the largest in the Northern Division, which is the largest of the nine divisions. It consists of 12 police districts spanning from Curepe to Valencia along the East-West Corridor and from Blanchisseue to Piarco from north to south.
Ramphall said over 100 guns have already been seized in the division for the year.
With the Yuletide season going on, he will be adjusting the working hours of some officers to ensure high visibility and increased joint patrols with the Defence Force, especially in areas where there have been higher levels of crime.