ECONOMIST Anslem Richards says the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) is looking to invest in an X-ray machine for the Scarborough Port, in an attempt to prevent the flow of illegal guns into the island.
On Monday, Tobago recorded its seventh gun-related murder for the year so far with the killing of Denson Turner.
Eyewitnesses said Turner was in a garage at a house in Les Coteaux shortly after 5pm when two men approached him and started shooting. He died on the spot.
Earlier that day, gunmen also robbed a jewellery store at Port Mall, Scarborough.
Richards said he has spoken repeatedly about the need to address the proliferation of guns entering Tobago.
“For a small society like ours, we really need to treat decisively with the issue of illegal firearms on the island or else it is going to destroy Tobago’s economy, which is based on tourism and services, where we rely on people visiting the island to consume the services we provide,” he told Newsday.
In this regard, he said the THA is looking to buy an X ray machine.
“We have identified that as one the means by which firearms and other illegal items and substances are entering the island. So we want to put in the technology that is going to help the law-enforcement agencies to better police our points of entry.”
Richards said the THA held a meeting with police and other security agencies about three weeks ago.
“The Chief Secretary has promised to look at the options for procuring one of those X-ray machines that will give us better security coverage at the port. So they are looking at the countries that producing them, the specs, cost. It is something that is being actively pursued by the THA in collaboration with the port.”
Saying the use of guns to commit murders and other serious crimes must be addressed frontally, Richards observed that one of the decision-making factors for people visiting any destination is personal safety.
“If personal safety is deteriorating at the rate it is in Tobago, then it is going to impact the Tobago economy.”
He said the THA, police and community must come up with strategies to address murders and other serious crimes decisively.
“There has to be a tactical and practical strategy to remove illegal firearms from the communities. You cannot keep talking around this issue.”
Tobago Business Chamber chairman Martin George lamented the escalating gun crime on the island, saying the organisation has been calling repeatedly for scanners to be installed at the Scarborough port.
“When you have vehicles coming on the boat to go to Tobago, they can be scanned for guns. You can check them for drugs. You need that type of scanning,” he said in a WhatsApp voice note.
“It is ridiculous that you are scanning an individual walking on. but somebody can drive on a vanload of guns and there is no scanner. We need to be serious about these activities.
“The number of illegal firearms on the island has increased exponentially and I think that is where the police need to start in terms of their fight against crime to bring down the level of criminality in Tobago.”
George also said the directors of the Tobago Business Chamber met recently with the head of the Tobago Police Division, ACP Collis Hazel.
He said the meeting was productive.
“He laid out all of the plans and ideas and strategies that they were thinking of in terms of implementing to try to improve safety and security in Tobago.
“These things will take some time. But given the recent robberies we have seen at Pizza Boys, the jewellery store and yesterday’s (Monday’s) murder, which was the seventh murder for Tobago (for 2023), it is clear that we need to escalate our time frame and ramp up and increase our activities.”