Activist: Policing in Tobago not good enough

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

The Shirvan Road Police Station in Tobago. File photo –

A BON ACCORD activist has said the approach to policing in Tobago leaves a lot to be desired.

Lyndon Mack told a police town hall meeting on April 9 that the issues raised at a community crime symposium in 2019 are still being discussed five years later.

“Five years later, the same conversations are taking place. There has to be a different style and approach to policing in 2024. The model that we have now is not good enough,” he said at the Bon Accord Multipurpose Facility.

Addressing the head of the Tobago Division, ACP Collis Hazel and other senior police officers at the head table, Mack said he knew his comments will be “very uncomfortable for you to hear.”

He complained about their response to incidents in the area.

“I would have lived in this community for 40 years with one station that is five minutes away from me. But it takes you all 30 minutes to an hour to respond to calls in this community.”

Mack, a businessman, said emergency calls are transferred to Trinidad at E99, unless people call 211.

“When we are talking emergency situations, we are talking life-and-death situations. Between Crown Point and Shirvan and Scarborough, that is approximately 25-minute drive from Bon Accord to Scarborough and we have businesses along the whole community stretch that need to see more of your presence.”

He said some businesses open in the morning while others operate at night.

“But criminals can drive 100 miles in any direction when there is no real police presence on the island….

“The style needs to change. We can’t have police officers in the station when criminals are outside. It doesn’t work.

“Most times when criminals are committing their actions, they are liable to get away with no police presence on the road. This is not good enough. The style of policing needs to change in 2024.”

Mack said the issue should not be about resources.

“Every Independence (Day) we are seeing vehicles parading, but for them to answer in real time it is not there.”

Saying police officers have a duty under the constitution to serve citizens, Mack said if lawmen are unable to protect citizens for whatever reason, citizens should be able to protect themselves.

“If that is the situation, then business owners like myself should have the right to go and purchase a firearm to protect themselves when you cannot provide the service.”

Mack also claimed that community policing in the area is dead.

“Many of the youths today have lost touch because they do not know about community policing. It is literally dead.”

In response, Supt Rodhill Kirk invited Mack to “put some solutions on the table so that we can remedy the situation.”

He said there is often the tendency among many people “to conform to what we know.

“But I want people to develop a growth mindset. It is about treading into the unknown to fix the issues.”

Regarding the Crown Point station district, Kirk said there was a decrease in criminal activity when compared to the corresponding period last year.

In terms of police response, he said he knew there was an issue when people dial 999.

“It goes to the command centre in Port of Spain and sometimes the person taking the call is not quite familiar with the Tobago area.”

Kirk urged Mack to get a listing of all of the station’s numbers. But he said police response times to incidents have improved.

“It is something I haven’t had a complaint about in a very long time. But in some instances, when the police has more than one report to treat with, what they tend to do is prioritise by dealing with the serious ones first.”

He said there will always be room for improvement in policing.

“This why we use these forums in terms of trying to communicate with citizens so that we could treat with the issues that you raise.”

Kirk said police officers are not omnipresent but they can be proactive in their approach to treating with community issues.