Betehsda/Les Coteaux electoral representative Zorisha Hackett said she is committed to transforming youths in her area through self-development and other positive activity. Hackett was responding to a report from ACP William Nurse, the outgoing head of Tobago police, that there are 20 gangs spread across Tobago with specific mention to Golden Lane/ Les Coteaux.
Last Tuesday, Nurse told Newsday that gang violence was one of his biggest challenges during his year as head of the Tobago Division. In pointing out Les Coteaux, he said this is an area that goes unsuspected of producing criminals, adding that approximately 70 per cent of Tobago's most notorious criminals live in Tobago North.
Speaking with Newsday on Thursday, Hackett described the situation as unfortunate. She said since her appointment to office, she has been making a concerted effort to provide the youths in her area with opportunities for academic and skills training as well as sport development.
“Many young persons continue to participate in the district’s academic enhancement programme, born out of my observation that there was a need to enhance knowledge and improve academic performance as many students had fallen behind during the global lockdown.”
This programme, she said, is also geared towards secondary school dropouts and repeaters, to provide them with an additional opportunity to improve their academic qualifications so that they can become more marketable in the world of work.
Hackett said there have been discussions with residents on the value of entrepreneurship and encouraging them to adopt a more self-reliant mindset.
“Further, through sport, such as my ongoing Bethesda/Les Coteaux District Cup football tournament, I have provided my four villages with the opportunity to not only engage in friendly rivalry but to also be provided with opportunities for entrepreneurship, since unemployment is a major issue in my district.”
She believes that sporting events encourage youths to realise their talents while fostering a sense of identity and community spirit.
“Opportunities to build stronger bonds within my district have also been provided through my community open mic forums, which are held regularly in each village. By giving my residents a voice, it is hoped that they will gain a deeper sense of appreciation for their communities as they work along with their area representative to come up with strategies to mitigate against the social ills of crime, teenage pregnancy and school dropout, which are currently plaguing this district.”
She noted that a walk against crime is currently being planned.
Tobago Business Chamber chairman Martin George said he was keen to know how the issue is being addressed.
“It appears that not enough is being done to act on all this knowledge and information which resides in the belly and the bosom of the TTPS. How could the TTPS know so much and appear to be doing so little?”
He added: “Where are the guns coming from? Where are the drugs coming from? Guns are not made in Tobago; drugs are not made in Tobago. They are either coming into Tobago by sea or by air.
"Tobago is a small island, why can’t we secure our Tobago island border to stop the inflow of illegal drugs and guns? Why can’t we have undercover officers on the boat and on the plane, doing patrols along deserted coastlines to secure Tobago’s borders?”
Unity of the People political leader Nickocy Phillips said that society must infiltrate the gangs.
“If the TTPS intelligence is aware of these gangs, what is the problem of uprooting them and applying the anti-gang legislation to its full use? I think the TTPS need to identify these gangs and find ways of getting them off the streets – it's not too much about prosecuting them to the fullest extent of the law but at the end of the day, we also have to identify ways to rehabilitate them.”
Phillips added: “This isn’t just a call for the TTPS but also for the Tobago House of Assembly to do more – provide jobs and entrepreneurial courses.”