TOBAGONIANS can expect a ten per cent reduction in serious crimes over the coming months, says newly-appointed ACP for Tobago Collis Hazel.
Hazel said he intends to meet his target by merging community policing with crime-fighting tactics.
Hazel became ACP of the Eastern and Tobago divisions on April 13. And as head of the Eastern Division, he intends to address issues of gangs, illegal mining and murders.
So far in 2023, Tobago has had four murders. On average, Hazel said Tobago has had ten murders per year over the last decade.
For this year, the first murder occurred on February 9 when gunmen killed Nigel Sandy, alias Pahjoe, an evaluator at the THA Division of Health, Wellness and Social Protection, near his Shelbourne Street, Plymouth, home.
The island recorded its second murder in March after a passer-by found the body of Rishi Renny Khodai, 39, of Arnos Vale Road, Plymouth, on Golden Grove Road, Canaan.
Tobago’s third murder victim, Moruga resident Alex Anthony Cooper, was found dead with gunshot wounds in a drain at Glen Road, on April 9. A couple was held shortly after the crime. The woman was released and the man, Akiel Grant, 27, unemployed, of Glen Road, was charged for Cooper's murder.
One day before that murder, Lynch Bovell, 49, of Sesame Street, Bethel, was shot by gunmen. He died at the Scarborough General Hospital on April 11.
In a sit-down interview on April 19, at the Riverside Plaza, Port of Spain, Hazel told Sunday Newsday under his direction, police will be coming strong with persistence and visibility “to ensure we attack the crown of where the problem exists. We are not a soft target.”
He plans to bring a type of leadership style that motivates and encourages his officers.
With an open-door policy, Hazel also hopes to foster a closer relationship with the business community, private security services and the Tobago House of Assembly.
“My first move is to get a good assessment. I need to establish a strong stakeholder analysis. Some people feel the police can do it alone, but the police cannot. We are going to make sure we work with the stakeholders so that we understand each other and we can work mutually to solving problems.”
In Tobago, Hazel said he has noticed only a small group of people are causing trouble.
“We are going to the root of Tobago’s problem. We have been enslaving ourselves in our home rather than working mutually with others to fight against the few. We just need to unite.
“But, admittedly, I must say we have to build trust. So it’s not going to be any honeymoon for me with anybody who (is) not trustworthy and are not committed to their oath of office.”
Hazel said it irks him when police officers in Tobago are not held accountable for low productivity.
“We need to put officers to work. People make reports and there’s no feedback, victimisation, people are waiting, asking...We need to get people to work, and to do that we need to motivate people and hold our superintendent and senior superintendent accountable.”
In the past Hazel, who led the Roxborough Police Youth Club for many years, was criticised for publicly expressing his political views in Tobago. Now that he’s in charge of the Tobago division he assured the public he will work without political interference.
“I have been friends with people of all political persuasions, and I make no apology for that, because if you work with a community you have to relate with them to get the resources to help your community. I rubbish the whole idea of affiliation...I take my oath of office seriously, and in so doing I’m prepared to work legally and lawfully with those will to work with the police.”
One other measure he plans to enforce among his officers is the use of body cameras.
He has also made asked for a batch of Trinidad officers to be stationed in Tobago to help improve the quality of policing on the island.
“There are too many Tobago police officers in Tobago, and so there needs to be a new breed of other people coming from Trinidad and that’s the justice other people have been crying out for. We don’t want nepotism, favouritism, kinship and friendship. We want to be able to ensure when people come to our police station to make reports, they can be confident of themselves that we are prepared that there can be justice.”
He said as soon as the resources become available he "would like a shuffle in the pack."
“What is required is the management of the resources. It’s a combination of us crafting a plan so that we don’t have duplicitation of what we are going to do.”
During his tenure there will be a targeted focus on tourism-oriented policing, money laundering, traffic violations, larceny, drug trafficking, gangs and illegal firearms.
“We need to follow the money where it is. So emphasis will be placed on that as well. In terms of where our detection is going to come about in terms of focusing – intelligence-led driven investigations – we are going to be organising in our Compstat model (a crime and analysis projection system) in terms of how we treat with different operations.”
In the coming month, the Tobago police division will be pumping resources into the growing inter-island illegal trade in stolen livestock.
“A lot of the trade that happens is praedial larceny via the inter-island ferry. Trinidad continues to support the Tobago population in sheep and goat farming and they come often to buy: that's one of the things that we could say that Tobago exports.
“But it is always at our risk, where people coming here stealing people's animals and selling it. We have gone so much now where there are any dealing with the carcass and not only that, they are taking the live animal and slaughtering them in Tobago and bringing them to Trinidad in buckets. And therefore if we don’t deal with this urgently, we will certainly have a problem.”