POLICE, ARMY FOR DUNCAN STREET
By JULIEN NEAVES and Alexander Bruzual Friday, August 16 2013
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POLICE and soldiers will be camping out on Duncan Street, Port-of-Spain in a joint post at building number 42 after two teenagers were brutally murdered in the area on Wednesday.
This was announced yesterday by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar as she spoke with members of the media during a visit to Duncan Street with a number of Government officials and top security officials.
She had met earlier with members of the National Security Council “to see how we can arrest the spike that we’ve seen in crime” and noted there was a proposal to use the building as a joint police and army post. She said there will be other activities and initiatives by Acting Commissioner Stephen Williams and Chief of Defence Staff Major General Kenrick Maharaj.
“But I think the presence here will be very important,” she added.
She said residents had also asked for a centre for their children and she believes it will help the community.
The announcements came after she had an emotional encounter with heartbroken mother Natasha Rogers whose 16-year-old son Naim Chester Antoine was dragged from his bed at an apartment on Duncan Street, taken to George Street and shot 15 times early Wednesday morning. Persad- Bissessar wiped away tears as she spoke with Rogers and told her “I feel your pain.” She noted as a mother and grandmother she is very “traumatised” by these tragedies.
Rogers told reporters: “I told her we all are women and you don’t have to be a biological mother to make a child. And once you have that love you will feel a next mother’s love. She (the Prime Minister) cried. She cried because I told her my son was a sickle cell (patient). He born in pain and he gone in pain. What kind of life that could be. He didn’t deserve that. Is like a dog on the streets or rubbish they just kicked aside. He begged for his life.”
She noted her son was staying with her in Diego Martin but had returned to their old apartment to gather some things and he fell asleep.
“And that was the time they came and do what they have to do,” she noted. Rogers said she was now starting to build her home in Diego Martin, but was afraid to return as she may be targeted by the people who killed her son.
She said, however, that her faith in God has kept her in this time. She noted she would appreciate if Government would assist in the funeral expenses for her son, the second of her six children.
Hours after his murder, Antoine’s 16-year-old cousin Rasheeda Gomez was shot and killed on Duncan Street. Another teenager, Sean Lewis Jnr, 17, was later killed in Laventille while repairing a car. Their deaths were part of seven murders within 24 hours in separate shootings in East Port-of-Spain, Laventille and Maloney.
Yesterday during the tour a number of heavily armed police officers and soldiers lined Duncan Street. Persad-Bissessar said the police presence has already begun and will continue as long as necessary. She noted that police will be utilising static, mobile and air resources, pointing to a Defence Force helicopter flying overhead.
She said a limited state of emergency, as was implemented in 2011, has not been recommended by the officers as they believe they can contain the spike in murders with other measures. She noted they also discussed the implementation of the anti-gang legislation and she had been advised by Deputy Commissioner of Police Mervyn Richardson that they had been in discussions with Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Roger Gaspard on the issue. She noted she has been advised that people had been held under the law and the files have to be sent to the DPP for his response on whether they can continue to hold them in custody. Newsday understands 12 persons were arrested in east Port-of-Spain on Wednesday night following the murders.
Persad-Bissessar also noted Government will look at the death penalty again in Parliament as she believes it can be a deterrent. She said Government will send the bill to Opposition, which did not support it the last time it came to Parliament, for their comments.
Among the victim’s of Wednesday’s chaotic shooting spree in Port-of-Spain and Laventille, were Christopher George, 24, Samuel Brewster, 28, and Akim Perry, 29. The seventh murder took place in Maloney on Tuesday night, with the shooting death of Aaron Williams, 23,
Yesterday, the bodies of Gomez, Lewis Jnr, Peters, Perry, and Brewster were taken to the Forensic Science Centre, St James, for autopsies.
Lewis Jnr’s father Sean yesterday maintained that despite some media reports he had heard, his son was never in a gang.
“He now finish Form Four, and preparing for Form Five, and one of the subjects he doing was mechanics. So I send him by a pardner of mines for the vacation so he could learn, and get some experience, so he would be better prepared for his practical exams next year. I tell him he had to do it, because I didn’t want him home. I know that the devil will find work for idle hands, and it is much easier to do so in Laventille,” said Lewis Snr.
“So I send him there to learn. To learn! He not in any gang. He not in any thing wrong. But yet they come and kill him like a dog under a car? We were supposed to go Tobago soon, and now I have to bury him. My only son.”
George, from Laventille, was killed on Quarry Street, East Dry River while driving his Nissan Alemera.
Perry, from Gloster Lodge Road, Belmont, was at a shop at Glondell Road, Laventille when he was shot multiple times, dying on his way to hospital. Perry’s relatives were too distraught to speak to reporters yesterday.
Brewster, of TrouMacaque Road, Laventille, was the last person to be killed on Wednesday night. He was shot dead a short distance away from his home in Mango Alley. Police said that at about 10 pm, residents found Brewster’s body after hearing gunshots.
Brewster’s relatives said he was a kind and caring person, and they did not understand why anyone would want him killed.
“His only vice was that he used to drink a lot. But to say he in gang, or doing drugs or anything? That is madness. We used to threaten that boy when he was drinking, that we would call the police and have them lock him up for disorderly behaviour and he used to run home with that. The man was too much of a coward to be in anything. The man was only loving. Yet they kill him? For what?” said a relative.
Acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams yesterday pointed out that with 138 homicides in four years in a 200 metre radius in east Port-of-Spain is “phenomenal”. On the recent spike of homicides he said, according to their information, it was because of clashes between gangs.
Chief of Defence Staff Major General Kenrick Maharaj said the joint police and soldier post would be set up within the next 24 to 48 hours. One resident said he was glad the post was being set up. “It will not stop the crime but it will kind of drive it out a little bit,” he noted. Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley yesterday said the Opposition stands ready to meet with Government to discuss what measures can be taken through the Parliament to curb the levels of crime in TT.
Condemning what he described as the “unemployable gun-toting thug in the plannings of East Port-of-Spain,” Rowley expressed his sympathy as a husband and father for the teenagers who “had their lives brutally snuffed out even before they had properly started.” He said a state of emergency was not an option to fight crime, noting the country had “the Police Service and strong legislative tools designed specifically to deal with these developments.”
Even so, Rowley said, “the Opposition calls on the Government to meet with us to hold in-depth discussions to see what can be done through combined efforts in the Parliament and elsewhere to address this seemingly intractable problem which threatens all our citizens,” he said.
The Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce yesterday said its members were also deeply troubled by the spike in murders.
The Chamber said while they do not expect the Government to publicly reveal its crime plan in its entirety, they are concerned that they have not seen the fruits of any national crime plan. They believe the war on crime must be fought on all fronts utilising legislation, enforcement, the prompt administration of justice, good example and the social net.