National Security Minister, Fitzgerald Hinds, has apologised to the people of Trinidad and Tobago for the crime.
In his contribution in the budget debate on Monday, he said “We will fight like hell” to protect the people from the criminals.”
He said it “pained” him — as it did the rest of the nation — to see the video of a woman being “dragged” (by criminals) on Charlotte Street, Port of Spain as she was robbed TT$65,000 and US$15,000 last Friday.
Hinds said he wanted as minister to apologise to all the victims of crime.
“I want to apologise to the people of Trinidad and Tobago, those who have lost dear ones, those persons who are traumatised by some of our citizens, and perhaps others in home invasions, in rapes, in incest. That woman who was dragged on Charlotte Street a few days ago pained all of our hearts. Madam Speaker, on behalf of those of us who behave in those ways, who choose crime in some cases as a business model, I apologise to the rest of us and give you (the nation), the assurance that as Minister of National Security, we will continue to put up the walls, put up defences, and fight like hell to protect you from that,” Hinds said.
The minister said in 2022 there were 345,000 police patrols across ten divisions and to date in 2023, there were 311,873. “And even so I hear cries from the public for greater (police) presence. And those cries are justified and therefore we have to continuously reshape, redouble our efforts, redeploy, to meet public expectations because things are happening at a rate which is troubling,” he said.
He said the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) did 30,951 patrols this year. “So when I hear people saying..bring soldiers into the atmosphere..I say quietly to myself, they are already there…Soldiers are already out there supporting the police service,” he said.
“Following the philosophy wrongly adopted by that last commissioner”, Hinds said this Government had a “restrictive policy where firearms will be granted to people who can demonstrate that they need them, and not simply because you are somebody’s friend”.
According to Hinds, the TTPS was engaged in a serious gun retrieval exercise, and he called on the public to assist in this exercise which had seen 96 revolvers, 298 pistols, 35 shotguns, 11 sub-machine guns and 62 rifles recovered for this year. “The more the public supports the police in getting these guns out of the hands of criminals, the less likely we’ll have to cry every Monday morning as we gather outside the Forensic Science Centre and I have to account for these murders as Minister of National Security,” he said.
Noting that the murder toll to date was 458, he said “unfortunately” the total number of murders solved thus far was 85, but 63 were committed in 2023 and 22 in previous years. He said for this year there were 225 targeted operations by the police. Between August and October 9, 196 warrants were executed and 124 firearms found. He said this, coupled with cocaine and marijuana seizure, made him satisfied that the police were “out there doing what they are supposed to do”.
He said he was happy with the plan to increase the recruitment from 300 to 1,000.
With respect to CCTV cameras, Hinds said five areas in the Port of Spain division will have cameras by the end of this week. And from October 16, cameras will be installed at a rate of about 75 of them per day across the place. “We are focused on professionalising and improving the technology of our crime-fighting platforms. We are confident and we want the criminals to know that we are getting stronger and better and we are coming to get you,” Hinds stated.
Hinds said the diversion of firearms — “where they leave legal and law enforcement stockpiles and end up in the hands of criminals, which has happened” — was a problem facing the country. “You and I have heard people talking about finding TTDF and TTPS ammunition on crime scenes…These matters are under police investigation,” he said.
“We are finding a lot of 9.62 ammunition on the scene. In one case recently, 94 shells were found, most of which [were] 5.56 and 7.6 which the military in this country no longer use. But diversion is the issue. We have had significant importation of that through the hands of who I consider now to be a reckless former commissioner of police, because the record shows that he allowed the importation of more 7.62 and 5.6 ammunition than all the commissioners of police together since our Independence,” Hinds stated. “And now we find them on crime scenes…Diversion includes where they are sold or allowed to be imported legally to firearm dealers and possibly end up in the wrong hands too.