Police: Gang leaders enslaving young minds

Supt Rishi Singh of the Port of Spain CID
Supt Rishi Singh of the Port of Spain CID

SENIOR Supt Rishi Singh of the Port of Spain CID has warned that gang leaders were literally enslaving the minds of vulnerable youngsters into entering a life of criminality.

Speaking at a briefing at police headquarters in Port of Spain on Thursday, he said police intelligence into gang activity had revealed some disappointing realities.

"Young persons cry out for leadership. That is what a gang leader is to a young person, you know, a leader, albeit a terrible leader.

"The reality is, this gang leader is the ruler of a space bordered by streets, bordered by buildings and walls, and he exerts a significant influence on a mind that he has enslaved."

Singh said that whether stated in poetic or criminological terms, the reality was that a young boy in a depressed community often views a gang leader as his saviour.

"That saviour is going to 'advantage' that boy into thinking that his route to success is to go and snatch a gold chain in Port of Spain and, 'Bring it back for me and I'll give you some.'"

Singh said even when parents try to send their child to school, his mind can remain trapped by the gangster, in what he dubbed a vicious cycle.

"And the young girls, who make the child that is enslaved, she too has some tough decisions to make."

Singh appealed, "So, what are we as a community going to do? Is this something that the police alone can deal with?"

Noting this month's Emancipation and Independence celebrations and Republic Day next month, he said, "It is up to each and every one of us to really put into context our social reality and decide what type of intervention we can volunteer, accommodate in order to rid ourselves of this vicious cycle."

In an aside earlier, Singh said Port of Spain was "largely safe for your average citizen" and the police would endeavour to keep it that way.

Singh said recent displays of high-powered guns by gangsters were intimidatory but would spur the police on to greater action against crime, when asked by Newsday how police felt to see online video clips online of a man with an assault rifle shooting people in Malick and two gunmen shooting someone inside a shop, and how the police would get the public on board against such criminality.

He said, "The issue of a high-powered rifle being used in criminal activity is very much of concern to the police."

The police have embarked on actions to seize such guns, Singh said.

"It is an activity that is ongoing, and rest assured that any time we get any information that would lead us to the direction of where those things are, we go."

While saying he could not speak for each officer in reaction to the video clips, speaking as an individual he said, "It is intimidating. I'll not sit here (and) tell you it is not.

"But being intimidated does not mean we will be propelled into inaction.

"In fact it is the intimidation I feel as a citizen that drives me more and more to inspire the confidence of my men and women and help them come to a sense of purpose, that we are driven by the common purpose to make the place secure and safe."

Singh addressed the issue of public confidence in the police, seemingly acknowledging the recent charging of eight officers over the deaths of three men in Laventille.

"We are as an organisation alive to the disenchantment that citizens feel. That's the reality of our society."

However, he said it was the police service that brought their colleagues to justice.

He also wanted the public to know the police were seizing weapons. Also, he said the police service comprised the cousins and brothers and sisters of ordinary citizens, so the public should have faith and call the police when needed.

"Have confidence we will act. Together we will resolve this issue."

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