Licensing boss unmoved by public complaints, vows: Inspection clampdown

Transport Commissioner Clive Clarke.  - File photo
Transport Commissioner Clive Clarke. - File photo

Transport Commissioner Clive Clarke says the Licensing Division intends to clamp down on the enforcement of vehicle inspections soon.

He made the comment as the division issued more than 200 fixed-penalty notices over the Easter weekend. Speaking with Newsday on April 1, Clarke said he is unhappy with what he is seeing from drivers.

“Saturday, I was on the highway and the things I saw, I was appalled because both the (Transport) Ministry and I have been making a call for a number of persons to get their act together as far as their driving documents are concerned.”

He said many people are still operating under a false assumption that there is a moratorium on the renewal of vehicle and licensing documents.

“A number of persons are driving with expired permits and with their vehicle not inspected. We are not under a moratorium.”

He said there are plans to further clamp down on drivers who do not meet the vehicle inspection criteria.

“I have given my staff the instruction to ramp up enforcement based on inspection because defective vehicles contribute to major issues on the nation’s road and we have to be able to ensure vehicles are inspected properly.”

Clarke said possible corruption at inspection stations is also being looked at.

“We have implemented mechanisms to monitor if we have delinquent vehicle testing stations on the outside. So where you find persons who may want to probably falter, we will find them out and we’ll treat with it.”

Drivers across the country voiced their displeasure on social media throughout the weekend over the number of roadblocks across the country. Maracas was no exception and business owners in the area told Newsday on April 1 the attempt by police and licensing officers to clamp down on crime and errant drivers is hurting sales.

Licensing officers issued 72 fixed-penalty notices in road exercises in Maracas over the weekend. Small-business owners in the area told Newsday sales were slow and their customers were left scampering after law enforcement officials also began issuing tickets for indiscriminate parking. They say customers also complained about the amount of time they spent in traffic to get there.

One business owner accused the officials of “hurting the small man just to fatten the government’s pockets.” Several said they believed licensing officials chose the long weekend to hold roadblocks because there was a greater likelihood of issuing more tickets.

Cleon Mitchell, who runs a snowcone business, said the roadblocks, particularly when there are licensing officials present, deter beach-goers and the effect was seen in his sales.

“Less people does come out, because people coming from a distance and they coming to enjoy themselves, and they ent want that headache.

“It humbugging we culture and it humbugging businesses on a whole up on this side. They keep doing it every holiday, but it humbugging local businesses. It’s the time we does get to make money, but like it’s a problem.”

Mitchell described the roadblocks as “a continuous problem” on holidays and long weekends and said he believes they are pointless.

“After ten minutes of roadblock, everybody know it have a roadblock, so what is the purpose?”

He added, “Every holiday they’re doing that and it’s not cool, because they taking out money out of people pocket. Let we look at the bigger picture and leave the poor people let them make their money, please.”

He described the roadblocks as a “petty hustle” by licensing officials.

“That is not how Trinidad does make money. It have other things to make money as a government, as a country. People coming from all over the world to come here and they have to take hours to reach here because of petty hustle.

“It’s time we stop that as a country and let people come and enjoy what we have and they not doing it.”

One man who runs a beach-chair rental business spoke with Newsday on condition of anonymity and shared similar sentiments as he accused the government of trying to “make money off of citizens.”

He said, “If traffic wardens and police are coming here, it should be to assist with the parking and to guide people instead of harassing them and giving them tickets.

“They are supposed to help the problem, not make money from people who just want to come to spend time with their family and park where they could see their car and feel comfortable.”

He said the government should spend more time coming up with other creative ways to increase its income apart from “frustrating and distressing poor people.”

A woman asks about the price of sweets at Eden’s Sweet and Sour Hotspot at the Maracas lookout on April 1. Vendors at the lookout complained about police and licensing exercises disrupting their sales
over the long weekend. - Photo by Faith Ayoung

Bobby Singh, owner of Eden’s Sweet and Sour Hotspot at the Maracas lookout, agreed roadblocks affect sales, but said this must be balanced with public interest.

“There was a time on Sunday when up here was like a desert because the word spread on social media and so on that (licensing officers) were up here.

“So a lot of law-abiding citizens will not come up because of the amount of traffic it causes. It’s a tricky thing because it is necessary. It affects the sales, but they’re doing a good thing for the country.”

Singh said regardless of the public’s thoughts, the reality is that police and licensing officers have a job to do.

“People will come up here and do illegal stuff, come up here with vehicles that don’t have licence, insurance and in case of an accident, that is real problems… To be honest, it is affecting the sales, it have no two ways about that ,but it is necessary. I’m sorry to say, but people who complaining not watching the big picture.”

Singh suggested police and licensing officials revise their decisions about the time roadblocks are held.

“Have the roadblocks more in the afternoon time. They will still catch the same crowd that on the beach who are going back home. You know how many drunk people they will catch driving under the influence?”

Meanwhile, councillor for the area Israel Joseph said both vendors and the public want to have their cake and eat it.

He said the exercises are responsible for a drop in crime in the north coast communities.

“I understand the inconvenience, because that is when the vendors are really looking forward to making money. At the same time…it’s either we have safety and security or we make money.”

Clarke remained undeterred despite criticism by the business owners and said these joint police and licensing exercises yield results and help keep the public safe.

“There is a positive impact in which persons are mindful of the fact that there is a presence of law enforcement and therefore, you need to continue seeking to do that which is right. Make sure you have your documents, make sure your vehicle is inspected, make sure you are within the law.”

He said while his officers are criticised by some, they are also praised by others.

“Social media comments could be either yea or nay. If you look at some of the comments, you will see some persons welcoming the initiative because of the carnage we have on the road.”

Clarke referenced the recent incident in which a member of the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force was suspected of being involved in an accident which resulted in a truck driver’s death.

“That bothered me, because if we had licence officers on the road or enforcement officers on the road, we may have stopped an accident.”

The TT Police Service  posted on its Facebook page about the exercises on March 31, saying, “The TTPS provided a blanket of security at Maracas Bay on Easter Sunday. Our dedicated officers ensured that the holiday was filled with sun, sand, and safety.”

However, this also met with criticism from some users for the officers’ actions and the number of tickets issued.

One person said, “Ticketing the citizens, Is TTPS 2024 crime plan! Hope all the murders and robbery will decrease because of this 2024 crime plan.”

Another posted, “A blanket of tickets. While criminals run free,” while another person responded to the post and said the police were “out on ticket giveaways.”

One person thanked the police for directing traffic along the North Coast Road but suggested they were then responsible for causing traffic in Maracas.

Others were more understanding, with one man saying it was “not just another day on the job” for the officers.

“Sadly many if not most officers would rather be out having fun like the rest of the country on Easter weekend but are detailed to work extra... so I say hats off to them for answering that call to come out and protect.”


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