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Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith is advocating for a policy that allows essential workers to bypass roadblocks while police continue to crack down on people who breach the State’s COVID-19 measures.Griffith told Guardian Media yesterday, even as the police continued roadblocks, that he was in dialogue with Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, who is chairman of the National Security Council, to have the proposal approved.
The move comes in the wake of a series of road exercises last Friday which caused gridlock traffic in some parts of the country, particularly along the east-west corridor. Police reported that essential workers and people going to supermarkets, banks and pharmacies were caught in the roadblocks. However, they also encountered those who went out to meet loved ones, sell pets and check on their businesses.Yesterday, Griffith reiterated that the majority of those caught in the roadblocks were not essential workers and noted the police are providing deterrents that are working. However, he ensured that the police would only operate based on the authority given to them.But officers in the southern parts of Trinidad are having an easier time with the public.
In the Southern Division, Snr Supt Wayne Mohammed said yesterday that people live a slower, family-oriented lifestyle so the desire to stray out of their homes is limited to essential business. He said when his officers questioned people on the roads, they were either going to the supermarket, pharmacies, hardware stores or checking up on elderly relatives who live alone.“I am not seeing the number of people that were there before the COVID-19 outbreak, so they are heeding the call. We are not seeing that large amount of traffic, except for the main area in Marabella where the banks, pharmacies and supermarkets are close to each other,” Mohammed said.“We have set up roadblocks throughout the division to ensure people comply with the law and that only the essential workers are outside while the rest of the population stay at home. I am getting reports that people are listening. Southern people ascribed to a lifestyle whereby they cook at home and spend time with their families. They don’t need to go outside unnecessarily.”
In the South Western Division, Snr Supt Sharon Gomez-Cooper said people are aware of the roadblocks so they obey the law.“People are complying down here, but of course you will get one to two who do not. People here are more compliant because they recognise that going out there may create a situation where they will end up in a roadblock. They do not want to be in that traffic jam so they more or less leave their homes only to carry out essential business,” Gomez-Cooper said.Central Division head, Snr Supt Curt Simon, said his officers had to deal with a large number of people leaving their homes last week. But following roadblocks on Friday, there was a drastic reduction in traffic in the commercial hubs throughout the division yesterday.“People were giving frivolous excuses last week. I heard two mentioned on the airways and some were humorous and had nothing to do with essential stuff. During last week’s exercises, we saw that non-essentials were out in greater numbers than essential workers.
“We understand the situation so we are very polite in persuading people to stay home and keep themselves and their families who they interact with safe. If they come into contact with the virus out there and go home to their loved ones, the virus can spread in their homes,” Simon said.“I think that our persuasion is working. We made a comparison today (yesterday) against last Friday’s exercise and we have fewer vehicles in the main areas throughout Central Division.”
In those recent roadblocks, Simon said they only penalised motorists for traffic offences and no one was held for serious crimes such as narcotics and firearm possession. However, he believes criminals are aware of the roadblocks around the country and avoiding them.