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Special crime unit coming

By MIRANDA LA ROSE Wednesday, April 9 2014

A SPECIAL crime unit, drawing resources from the various arms of National Security, to deal with hostage negotiations, counter terrorist activities and eliminate gang warfare has been approved by the National Security Council (NSC) and Cabinet.

National Security Minister Gary Griffith made this disclosure during the question and answer session of yesterday’s sitting of the Senate, saying the Police and Defense Acts make provision for an interagency task force such as the one approved and the initiative, “has received the blessings of the National Security Council and Cabinet.”

Opposition Senator Faris Al Rawi, who asked all the supplementary questions in relation to the initiative, surprised his own senators when at the end of his questioning, he told Griffith: “congratulations on a very excellent initiative.”

The issue of the special unit came about when Al Rawi asked what was being done to deal with gang warfare. Asked if the unit was already in operation, Griffith said the structure, chain of command, recruitment, members’ roles, equipment, uniform and other matters are being worked on by the members in National Security.

The unit, Griffith said, will not require any special piece of legislation for it to be operational as provisions are already in place for joint operations between the Police, Defence Force, Prisons Service and other arms of the National Security Ministry.

The new unit will also include selected members from Customs, Immigration and the Coast and Air Guards. Members of the Unit, he said, will be specially trained with foreign help. Asked who the members would report to, Griffith said that based on the chain of command, members will report to the Commissioner of Police and Chief of Defence Staff.

One of the major objectives of the unit, Griffith said, is to ensure swift penetration and eliminate breaches in confidential data. At present, he said, “there is a problem between intelligence and operation.”

Government is aware, Griffith said, of concerns that members of the Police Service are aiding criminal elements and spoke of going on a raid where he experienced going to a home of a suspected gang leader only to be offered coffee and told the police and army were expected.

Griffith emphasised that unlike the Special Anti-Crime Unit (SAUTT) which operated in a clandestine manner and did not report to the Commissioner of Police, the special operations unit will be transparent and will comprise highly trained professionals.

Such units he said have shown successes in the cities of New York and in Los Angeles. Asked how many persons had been arrested and charged under the anti- gang law since January1, 2012 to December 31, 2013, Griffith said six. He said over the past five years, over 150 murders occurred in East Port-of-Spain on Nelson, Duncan, St Paul’s, Mango Rose and Piccadilly Streets. Of the 400 murders recorded last year, 250 were gang-related.

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