National Security Minister: Police going after Big Fish

Some Big Fish will be “tak­en down” be­fore year’s end.

That’s the promise from Na­tion­al Se­cu­ri­ty Min­is­ter Stu­art Young in the next wave of se­cu­ri­ty op­er­a­tions.

“There are charges which will be laid,” Young as­sured on Tues­day in the Sen­ate while speak­ing about the po­lice’s use of the an­ti-gang law and oth­er an­ti-crime leg­is­la­tion.

Young spoke about these and oth­er de­vel­op­ments while re­spond­ing to a mo­tion by UNC Sen­a­tor Tahar­qa Obi­ka on crime. Obi­ka had called for a strate­gic crime pre­ven­tion plan to ad­dress un­ac­cept­able crime lev­els in T&T.

But Young coun­tered with a list of de­vel­op­ments on se­cu­ri­ty, al­so dis­clos­ing is­sues which he said the US and UK au­thor­i­ties had with the past Peo­ple’s Part­ner­ship (PP) ad­min­is­tra­tion on se­cu­ri­ty.

Young said crime had be­come a “po­lit­i­cal foot­ball” and peo­ple were try­ing to in­stil fear. Young said lat­est po­lice fig­ures showed that one of the mea­sure­ments of crime—se­ri­ous crime in­ci­dents—showed such crimes were down from 6,620 over the Jan­u­ary to June 2018 pe­ri­od to 5,712 in the same pe­ri­od this year.

Young said the Po­lice Ser­vice will be us­ing the an­ti-gang leg­is­la­tion for in­ves­ti­ga­tions against crim­i­nals “liv­ing a life of crime.” He not­ed un­der the law, of­fi­cers are giv­en spe­cial pow­ers in­clud­ing to en­ter premis­es, ar­rest peo­ple and those har­bour­ing crim­i­nals and to ques­tion peo­ple.

“And it will lead to charges, there will be Big Fish tak­en down in the next set of op­er­a­tions be­fore year’s end,” he said.

“Big Fish” is a term which per­tains to the ma­jor crime fig­ures or un­touch­ables who have been re­ferred to in the pre­vi­ous PNM ad­min­is­tra­tion when crime and kid­nap­ping for ran­som had spiked. It was ref­er­enced dur­ing the PP ad­min­is­tra­tion’s 2011 state of emer­gency. Most re­cent­ly, Po­lice Com­mis­sion­er Gary Grif­fith al­so used the term to take down gang lead­ers and white-col­lar crim­i­nals.

Young al­so an­nounced that on Mon­day, the UK’s trav­el ad­vi­so­ry had up­grad­ed T&T, tak­ing this coun­try off the list of places where a ter­ror­ist at­tack was like­ly. T&T had been on that list since 2017 af­ter po­lice claimed they un­cov­ered a plot to dis­rupt Car­ni­val ac­tiv­i­ties.

“They told us it was be­cause of all the work we would have done in close prox­im­i­ty with them and the co-op­er­a­tion. The Po­lice Com­mis­sion­er, Chief of De­fence Staff and my­self went to Lon­don in Jan­u­ary, met with all the in­tel­li­gence agen­cies. They have been rat­ing us on the work we’ve been do­ing in the past few years. To­day, T&T has an up­grade,” he added.

On Obi­ka’s con­cerns about Venezue­lan crim­i­nals “hid­ing” in T&T, Young said, “A spe­cial unit will be im­ple­ment­ed to deal not on­ly with Venezue­lans but all for­eign crim­i­nal el­e­ments.

“The gang mem­ber (Obi­ka al­lud­ed to) we found him. I’ve signed his de­por­ta­tion or­der and he’ll be de­port­ed,” the min­is­ter said.

Young al­so dis­count­ed claims by the Siparia cor­po­ra­tion chair­man and oth­er coun­cil­lors that thou­sands and boat­loads of Venezue­lans con­tin­ued ar­riv­ing af­ter the re­cent two-week reg­is­tra­tion ex­er­cise. “The day af­ter June 14 when it end­ed, the radar sys­tem showed on­ly one ves­sel that at­tempt­ed to en­ter from Venezuela,” Young said.

He said he had ad­vised se­cu­ri­ty of­fi­cials to use the radar sys­tem, analyse da­ta, the coast­line and en­try points as there are path­ways peo­ple use re­peat­ed­ly.

“We found the points of en­try and that’s where we drove our lim­it­ed re­sources. We’ve been pick­ing up a lot of the il­le­gal arms and am­mu­ni­tions. Yes­ter­day morn­ing there was a big find of mar­i­jua­na on a boat out there.”

Young said yes­ter­day he met the US Trans­port Se­cu­ri­ty Agency (TSA) which gave the Pi­ar­co sys­tems a clean bill of health, this af­ter be­ing at risk for some time.

“I sat with the US Drug En­force­ment Agency (DEA), FBI and oth­er bod­ies and they said they would have gone in­to a very dark patch in T&T’s his­to­ry. They didn’t know who to speak to and who they could trust so they just stopped shar­ing in­for­ma­tion al­to­geth­er. But we’ve worked on re­build­ing re­la­tions and there is now free flow of in­tel­li­gence and train­ing; a sit­u­a­tion that nev­er ex­ist­ed be­fore,” Young said.

He said the US Gov­ern­ment al­so told his ad­min­is­tra­tion that it had spent mil­lions train­ing T&T of­fi­cers in bal­lis­tic test­ing and asked for sys­tems to be re-es­tab­lished af­ter the PP dis­man­tled it.

Young claimed the UK had al­so asked the for­mer Gov­ern­ment not to dis­man­tle sys­tems against transna­tion­al or­gan­ised crime and they agreed since the UK had threat­ened to slap visas on T&T na­tion­als.

Reporter: Gail Alexander

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