MORE SOLDIERS FOR JOINT PATROLS
By Nalinee Seelal Monday, July 7 2014
NATIONAL Security Minister Gary Griffith yesterday promised a dramatic increase in soldiers for all hot spot crime areas in a bid to reclaim this country from the hands of criminal elements.
“Every street corner and every area which we consider to be hot spot crime areas will be flooded with Defence Force officers who will be accompanied by their colleagues from the Police Service,” Griffith declared in an interview with Newsday yesterday.
There have been calls in many quarters for the Defence Force soldiers to be taken off the streets; calls which were intensified following the shooting death of Regiment Lance Corporal Kayode Thomas in John John, Laventille, on June 29.
There were claims following Thomas’ killing, soldiers began patrolling the streets on their own and were terrorising the community.
However, National Security Minister Griffith said yesterday, he has received positive feedback to the contrary.
“I want to let those persons who have been clamouring for the removal of the soldiers to know that their requests will not be entertained. In fact based on my feedback law-abiding citizens are very contented with the presence of the soldiers and police but I think the time will now come for more soldiers to be added to the patrols and this will be done within the next couple of hours,” he said last night.
Griffith added that helicopter patrols will also be added to the joint army/police patrols.
He said by this morning, citizens would wake up to the presence of more air and land patrols than ever seen before.
According to Griffith, those who have been calling for the removal of soldiers from the joint patrols were persons who were affiliated with the criminal community or those with criminal intent.
He also disclosed that the National Operations Centre will also be playing a greater role in the co-ordination of the patrols.
“I intend to utilise all aspects of national security in the fight against crime,”he assured.
The Defence Force has denied soldiers have been patrolling these areas by themselves or that they were engaged in terrorising residents.
The Defence Force, including Commanding Officer of the Regiment Colonel Rodney Smart yesterday took members of the media on a patrol in the Beverly Hills area where Lance Corporal Thomas lived.
At the Beverly Hills apartment complex last night there were army patrols visible while boys were playing a game of football. Nearby a wake was being held for Lance Corporal Thomas. A slide show of Thomas’ life was shown to residents and prayers were said for the fallen soldier. Defence Force personnel said the community welcomed their presence in the area.
Spokesman for the Police Service, Sgt Wayne Mystar said recently there was no intensification of patrols in the area. He said the Police Service and Defence Force were working together in joint army patrols.
“They go under the 24/7 patrols and they go under the Inter-Agency Task Force and we continue to collaborate with the Defence Force,” Mystar said.
On June 29, Lance Cpl Kayode Thomas was killed at Plaisance Road, John John at 11.30 pm. According to police reports, gunmen surrounded his car and opened fire. He died at the scene.
At the scene, officers recovered over 30 spent bullet casings around the soldier’s car.
The funeral service for Thomas will be held today at the Church of the Assumption, Maraval, at 10 am.
After the service, the body will be placed on the gun carriage at the intersection of Long Circular and Western Main Roads, St. James. The procession will march to the Military Cemetery, Long Circular Road, St. James, for the internment with full Military Rites.
Investigations into the murder of Thomas continue.
The National Security Minister also said that the recently formed Special Operations Group will focus primarily on gangs and officers of the SOG will be engaged in intelligence gathering.
“Time for action is now,” he assured.
The SOG, which draws resources from the various arms of National Security, deals primarily with hostage negotiations, counter terrorist activities and eliminating gang warfare.