|NOC helping to curb crime |
By CLINT CHAN TACK Saturday, January 25 2014
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ARMED AND READY: This heavily armed policeman commanded respect as he stood guard along with other officers outside the entrance to Parliament at Towe...
ALTHOUGH it is only five percent operational, the National Operations Centre (NOC) is already feeding law enforcement agencies with “critical intelligence” to deal with crimes in the country, from homicides to illegal drug trafficking.
National Security Minister Gary Griffith made this declaration during a briefing at NOC base at Knowsley, Port-of-Spain. Griffith also assured that the NOC is not “a covert undercover type intelligence unit” to be used against law-abiding citizens or political opponents of the Government.
Explaining that the NOC was based on the concept of the now defunct Special Anti-Crime Unit (SAUTT), Griffith said the difference between the two was that, “SAUTT was in the right direction but it lost its focus along the way.”
Stressing that one must not “throw out the baby with the bath water”, Griffith explained that the NOC is “earmarked to be the communications platform to provide that relationship between the different arms of law enforcement agencies.” Recalling the longstanding problem these agencies faced with respect to inaccurate information and timely sharing of information between agencies, Griffith said the NOC will deal with those problems by bringing agencies together and providing them with real time information to enable effective deployment of their assets to deal with crime in any part of the country. He added that unlike SAUTT, “the NOC will have no control over any law enforcement agency.”
Griffith said the Air Unit, a K9 Unit and a National Security Special Operations Group will operate under the NOC but will only be reporting on the direction of the Commissioner of Police (CoP) and Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). Saying all law enforcement agencies will have a presence at the NOC, Griffith said the Customs Division and the Licensing Office will also have representatives there as well.
Stating the NOC will be fully operational by February 2015, Griffith said even at five percent, the Centre is already recording successes in the war against crime. He said information provided by the NOC has resulted in 56 weapons seized in three weeks, 50 kilos of cocaine and 20 kilos of marijuana being seized. Observing that actual crime reduction and reduction of the perception of the fear of crime are equally important, Griffith said while this was, “a drop in the bucket, we are in the right direction and we will get there.”
After NOC Director Garvin Heerah said it cost $2 million to get the Centre to its current operational status, Griffith said the information being transmitted by the NOC was daily footage it is getting from closed circuit television cameras (CCTVs) and NOC would seek the support of the business community in places like Port-of-Spain to “piggyback” off their CCTV cameras if necessary. “You getting the information there in airports. Monitoring what is happening there at the ports,” he said.
Assuring that the NOC will not be used to invade the privacy of law-abiding citizens, Griffith said allowance is made for covert operations under the Interception of Communications Act.
He explained this would require authorisation from the CoP, CDS or the Strategic Services Agency (SSA) director. Indicating the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) which Government intends to acquire would be used for covert operations, Griffith said they will be “usedspecifically to pinpoint when the transfer is taking place, where that vehicle is going and get away from same ole same ole where you make the raid and just seize the goods.”