ACP North East Oswain Subero speaks with head of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement based at the US Embassy James Snoddy at Maloney Gardens, D’Abadie on Saturday. – Ayanna Kinsale
The US-funded Project Grace launched the community engagement aspect of the programme in Maloney on Saturday by conducting surveys with residents to determine their resources and needs.
Implemented by the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF), Project Grace (Gang Reduction and Community Empowerment) has two main components – intelligence-led policing and investigations, and community engagement.
Speaking to members of the media at the launch at the Amphitheatre, Maloney Village Plaza, Maloney Gardens, PADF representative Yolande De Leon said the people of Maloney had talents and ideas to build a community they could be proud of and feel safe in.
Through Project Grace, the PADF and the police were working with residents and community-based organisations to come up with strategies to help the community become stronger.
“It is about helping persons within the community to become more resilient. It is about looking at root causes of community decay and what we could do, working together, to come up with solutions.”
On Saturday afternoon, the people of Project Grace knocked on doors in Buildings 10-13 of Maloney Gardens conducting surveys, mapping the talents of the residents, learning about the resources in the community, and finding out what they wanted so when programmes were developed, the resources of Maloney could be tapped to assist.
De Leon said while they could not promise anyone employment, Project Grace was pushing entrepreneurial development and self-employment, and offering training, workshops, and psycho-social support to youths.
It was also working with ChildLine, the Morvant Men’s Mentorship Movement and other NGOs, the Ministry of Social Development, and had been meeting with the Ministry of Youth and the Youth Training and Employment Partnership Programme to see how they could support the programme.
It also started building the capacity of around 300 police officers with sensitivity training in proactive community policing at the Community Oriented Policing section of the TTPS in Riverside Plaza, Port of Spain.
Building Ten resident Selmon Wilson said the project was a good idea because, in the community, initiatives were often started but “nothing comes of it.” He believed it would benefit the youths of the community by giving them something to occupy themselves mentally and physically.
“(I like) The part about what they could put in place for the community in the sense of the programmes and whatnot. Because the programmes, even though they come, they kinda far and in between. So that’s one aspect I really think will be of some benefit.”
He also believed the residents of Building Ten would be receptive to the initiatives and participate.
Another resident, Keith Prime, agreed the project would help youths the most. He said the elders were “on their way out” and so was glad people were looking out for the youth since that generation was “giving trouble.”
“As long as they try, hopefully they will succeed. Because not everyone in Maloney living the life they want to live. At the same time, not everybody in Maloney wants better for themselves. What we go do?”
Divisional commander of Northern Division North Kerwin Francis said his officers did a lot of work in Maloney targeting gangs who were creating instability in the area through gun crimes.
He said in the past two years they were able to stabilise the community by charging several people who were responsible for crimes which set the stage for Project Grace.
“Traditionally Maloney has been a station district with mostly woundings and shootings and murders. For the year so far, we have had a serious reduction of those in terms of the detection rate. Our detection rate in this particular station district is up to around 60 per cent.”
He added that other serious crimes in the area were minimal.
ACP Oswain Subero said Maloney was ready for transformation as, because of the efforts of officers of Northern Division North, communication between the police and the community was better.
So as part of Project Grace, they wanted to meet with individuals to ensure the needs of the community were met.
“The people live there 24 hours (a day), we are there eight hours. They are the ones we have to listen to. So we listened in Port of Spain and we saw transformation take place. It’s just now to have that positive engagement and to ensure we reach out to the different government agencies and institutions that could satisfy the needs of the community. It worked well in Port of Spain and certainly it will work well here as well.”
He said since the project started people were feeling safe enough to be back out in the streets at night and commerce taking place again.
De Leon added that, years ago, the people of Maloney wanted nothing to do with the police. Now they request the police and their response to the officers was very different.
James Snoddy head of the Bureau of International Narcotics of Law Enforcement of the US Embassy pointed out that Project Grace started in May 2022. It was initially supposed to end in September 2023 but was extended to February 2024.
“We have not decided how we will proceed after the months are completed but we have all out M and E (monitoring and evaluation) initiatives built into the programme to decide what is the next step for Project Grace.”
Initiated and funded by the US Embassy to the tune of $1.3 million, he said the project would be in 12 communities, and many components and initiatives under the project were ongoing.