The murders on Dorata Street
By ANDRE BAGOO Sunday, September 2 2012
DORATA Street is not far from Church Street, and both roads are at Success, Laventille. In the space of two days in August, four persons were murdered in one neighbourhood: three on Dorata Street and one on Church Street. By any standard, this is an alarming development which should trouble the nation.
On August 24, Kareem Alphonso, ten, Jacob Peters and Justin Abraham were at an apartment complex on Dorata Street at 12.25am when a gunman opened fire on them. Alphonso and Peters died at hospital. Forensic experts said Alphonso was shot four times, with the last shot to the back of his head as he already laid face-down on the ground. Whatever the back-story to this event, it remains horrific and must be condemned. The next day, Sunday August 25, Miguel Clinton, 24, was walking along Dorata Street when he was shot at about 5.40 pm. Hours earlier, Anton Alves, 24, was shot not far from Dorata Street on Church Street.
Last Tuesday, police officers conducted a series of arrests in a 3 am exercise along Dorata Street and Pelican Extension in Morvant. There were reports of a house on fire at 3.45 am at Pelican Extension.
Acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams on Tuesday remarked, “Most murders in Trinidad occur in Laventille, and not in 2012, but historically.” That may well be true, but this does not diminish the unprecedented nature of the killings on one street. Further, if most murders historically happen in Laventille, why has the situation not been arrested?
Williams offered further remarks. “There is no one thing that is happening in Laventille,” he said. “It’s a multifaceted approach.” I’m sorry, but after 50 years as a nation, and with an annual expenditure of almost $3 billion on “national security” (about $15 billion in the last five years), it is time to “multifacetedly” get ourselves out of this situation. Perhaps it’s time to try banning guns. After all, we’ve tried weirder things.
Tellingly, the ten-year-old savagely killed last month was the son of a murder-accused man who on Wednesday applied to the court – the very court that is over-burdened with cases of pending murder indictments and appeals – to attend his son’s funeral. There is strong suspicion, and Deputy Police Commissioner Mervyn Richardson shares the belief, that the killings are products of underground criminal activity.
Ironically, all of this came amid controversy over whether the State has been “negotiating” with gang leaders. While on the one hand Minister of National Security Jack Warner has denied this, on the other hand he has assured some existing programmes providing work in Laventille will be “expanded and enhanced”.
Last month, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan said the point of the recent Anti-Gang Act – which outlaws gangs and their supporters – was not convictions but rather its “psychological value” as a deterrent. But is all law not intended, at a primary level, to psychologically deter? Unfortunately, this law may have worsened the situation when it was intended to do the opposite. For would most gang members not find gang membership more irresistible due to the fact that it is now outlawed? Gangs operate in a world where normal moral values are inverted: the “badder” someone is the better. If the gang members do not fear the consequences of killing, will they fear this? The legislation, passed with Opposition support, clothed gangs with illegality but in the process failed to be precise enough to allow convictions. Thus, the impression of being untouchable and of grass-roots legitimacy worsened.