For the Carnival season, the police, defence force and municipal police intend to take a zero-tolerance approach to public safety during the festivities.
ACP Winston Maharaj spoke about some of the measures during a media briefing on January 26. Maharaj identified a collaborative approach with state agencies, corporate citizens and the ten police divisions.
"I engaged the ten police divisions about crime and Carnival. All concerns have been noted and inputted into the plans for the overall safety and security, not just of masqueraders but the entire public."
He said the police aims to provide visibility and effective presence in every community and space, utilising various means, including sea, land, mobile, and horseback patrols. He said private security companies have offered assistance, particularly in residential areas, ensuring a multi-faceted approach to public safety.
Maharaj said discussions with corporate Trinidad and Tobago and private security companies about assistance in providing patrols and visibility, particularly in residential areas, have been fruitful.
Recognising the significance of Carnival as both a national festival and an economic event, Maharaj said there would be a heightened police and army presence along Ariapita Avenue where there had been occurrences of crime last year. He said intensified police patrols in the inner city have led to criminal displacement, particularly around City Gate, the main transit hub into the capital city.
"City Gate has been a vulnerable point with high traffic and a significant number of people traversing that hub. Now we see a displacement of criminality taking place due to the work that the police are doing.
"There is a dedicated group of officers, the transit police, whose remit is the City Gate hub and the PBR within the PTSC compound."
Despite this, he said there will be heightened security measures at City Gate, saying the overarching goal is to ensure a safe and secure environment.
“Carnival is not just fun; it's a national festival and an economic benefit to this country."
Regarding concerns over innocent bystanders being harmed by stray bullets targeting known individuals, Maharaj refrained from detailing police security operations but said there is also a plan in place. He also said licenced firearm holders would not be allowed to carry weapons in public spaces during Carnival, and designated areas for storage would be provided.
Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Kelvern Thompson echoed Maharaj's commitment to safety, assuring nationals abroad that returning for Carnival would be safe before sharing safety tips.
“We are giving you the assurance that you can come back home; you will be safe.
“Hire a designated driver; no weapons. You will be promptly arrested if found in possession of any type of weapon during Carnival festivities. We advise you to fete and party responsibly, especially for our female population and visitors. Stay aware of your surroundings at all times."
Thompson urged women to travel in groups if they are taking public transport and to wear comfortable shoes in the event of an emergency.
Insp Michelle Lewis, the police public information officer, outlined the police's safety campaign for Carnival, which focuses on road safety and discouraging drunk driving.
The "smart campaign" encourages people to make intelligent choices, covering various safety aspects during Carnival participation.
"The TTPS recognises that Carnival is a time of celebration and reverence, and also that it is crucial for everyone to remain vigilant and exercise caution."