National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds, left, bounces elbows with with Deputy Commissioner of Police Mc Donald Jacobs after the National Security media conference in Port-of-Spain yesterday. NICOLE DRAYTON

One day after prison officer Nigel Jones was shot dead in Siparia, police and soldiers moved into the Carapo and Santa Rosa districts and arrested nine suspects in connection with the murder on Monday morning.

Deputy Police Commissioner Mc Donald Jacob yesterday said 14 suspects in total were arrested during the exercise but only nine were deemed to be connected to the killing.

Around 1.30 pm on Monday, Jones, who was last attached to the Maximum Security Prison in Arouca, was standing on High Street, Siparia, holding the hand of his three-year-old daughter, when a car pulled alongside and the occupants opened fire on him. He died instantly and a recording of the incident showed the panicked child running around frantically until bystanders caught her.

Jones’ murder followed that of prison officer Trevor Serrette last week (November 26). He was gunned down while operating his fruit and vegetable stall in Valencia.

Speaking during a media briefing at the Ministry of National Security, Jacob said a contingent of 120 officers participated in the exercise, which began at 4 am on Monday and lasted several hours.

Officers from the TTPS, Defence Force, Prison Service Tactical Unit and the Prison Service K9 Section were involved.

He said the TTPS was doing all it can to bring “these criminals to justice.” He also pleaded for the public’s help to address the high level of criminality in T&T.

Meanwhile, National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds pledged to continue providing resources and ensuring legislative policies are in place to assist the security apparatus in carrying out its mandate to keep citizens safe.

Pointing to illegal firearms which continue to be a threat to both law enforcement and innocent members of the public, and which contribute significantly to T&T’s current murder figures, Hinds urged citizens to understand that “there is the concept of innocent bystanders.”

“Sometimes the hostile little boy in your community will turn his hostility upon you or even your son, your wife, your nephew, so we all have a duty…in this fight, to make this country a cleaner and safer and more wholesome place,” Hind said.

He urged: “I call on every single citizen of this country who see and who know and who have sons and daughters and nephews and neighbours and community residents who you have a good idea, stockpile these things or have them, or threaten a neighbour with them or walk around the streets with it at night openly…these physical, dangerous, lethal objects are present in our communities and the law enforcement must do its part.”

Cognisant of the public concern over the recent spate of gun-related murders, Hinds extended condolences to the families of Jones and Serrette. He said they were dedicated and committed law enforcement officials.

Responding to Monday’s video which showed the heart-wrenching reaction by Jones’ three-year-old daughter, who was holding his hand at the time he was shot dead, Hinds said, “I don’t know if she will easily be healed but I feel that pain.”

He said it was clear there are some who want to be educated in the right way and are determined to be civil human beings, while “there are those who feel that they have pathways otherwise…they are not prepared to invest the time and the discipline and the study and the acquisition of trade. They want wealth, they want benefits, they want happiness and they want it now and they are prepared to take it at the expense of anyone else.”

He appealed to citizens who know persons involved in crime and criminality to come forward and assist authorities.

He said, “It is a fact that these individuals exist in our families.

“They are our sons, our nephews, our neighbours, our friends. They live in our communities and some of us are aware of their presence. Some of us are aware of their activities. Some of us are aware of the guns and weapons that they host and hold and build up in order to carry on that kind of life, so while the national security platform is necessary and critical in dealing with these issues, I also contend that at the level of the family and the level of the community, we all have a responsibility to nurture and to guide and to care and to teach and to encourage and to direct away those youngsters in our communities who are tending along those paths.”

Jacob added, “The general public also has a responsibility, because our young men are dying on the streets.”

Statistics show that within the last three years­, 720 young men between the ages of 15 and 34 were murdered, with a further 52 men in that same age group being charged for murder.

Saying there was something wrong with the society, Jacob questioned why so many young persons were being attracted to the gang life and were being easily recruited into this type of violence.

Jacob appealed to families, schools, religious bodies and social institutions to look within and act now to change the present dynamic.

Of the 650 firearms so far recovered since the year began, Jacob said 110 of them were sophisticated sub-machine guns and rifles, while 50 were modified pump-action shotguns.

Approximately 150 Venezuelan nationals have also been arrested in the last three years for arms and ammunition possession in T&T.

With respect to the situation in which prison officers seem to be under attack by criminals behind bars, Jacob said one of the key moves going forward would be to “get rid of some of the rogue prison officers you may have existing and may create some sort of difficulty as we go forward in dealing with the situation that is coming out of the prison.”

Asked to respond to claims that two TTPS officers who were on patrol in the area where Jones was killed had failed to act in a timely manner as they had allegedly proceeded on lunch, Jacobs defended them as he said they relentlessly pursued the killers and also summoned back-up.

Snr Supt in the Southern Division, Brandon John, endorsed this, as he said they are satisfied the two officers “did all they could” to apprehend the killers, who managed to escape.

On the issue of firearms for prison officers, officials said Jones was armed at the time of his death but had no time to react when he was ambushed.