Farley: THA set to open department of safety and security

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Chief Secretary Farley Augustine at Friday’s press conference at Shaw Park in Tobago. – Photo courtesy THA

CHIEF Secretary Farley Augustine says the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) will soon open its department of safety and security in an attempt to better address the island’s worsening crime situation.

Augustine had first mentioned the initiative in the THA’s budget presentation in June.

Last week Saturday, Tobago recorded its tenth murder for the year with the shooting death of special reserve policeman Kyle Lashley during a robbery.

The policeman, who was last assigned to the Crown Point Police Station, was gunned down around 7.10pm while talking to friends at Providence Road, Les Coteaux. He was pronounced dead on arrival at the Scarborough General Hospital. The shooter snatched his gold chain.

At a news conference on Friday at the Shaw Park Cultural Complex, Augustine said he is expected to visit Les Coteaux and its environs this week.

“I will be making some time to get to that community along with the area rep (Zorisha Hackett) because I think she is planning for us to have some engagements there along with the national security apparatus,” he said

Augustine said the THA executive was disheartened by the increasing number of murders on the island.

But he noted the assembly was constrained legally in addressing certain aspects of crime.

“One of the challenges that Tobago will face is that it has no legal remit over national security. So the THA can’t order the police to do X, Y or Z. The THA can’t order that there be joint patrols. That is just the plain and simple truth of the laws as it is,” he said.

Augustine said, however, there are some measures the THA can implement to tackle the scourge.

On such measure, he said, is the department of safety and security.

“On the Tobago side, we are very close to opening our department of safety and security and we have been engaging with security experts who have been guiding us in terms structure and how that ought to work.

“Not only are we looking at safety and security in terms of murders and robberies. We are also looking at a wide picture, everything from terrorism to natural disasters and everything in between.”

Augustine said the department of safety and security will advise the THA on security measures. He added it will also marry those initiatives with social programmes “to help those who have a penchant for criminal activity.”

Beyond that, Augustine said, the THA is also looking at the legalities of creating its own localised security service, similar to what exists in Trinidad with the municipal police.

“We are working on a similar framework for the THA so that we can have a strength on the island that augments what the police is already doing.”

Augustine said they are also examining the possibility of bringing back the community comfort patrols.

“That was a national initiative and when you talk to the communities, they will tell you that they felt very safe seeing those vehicles, just patrolling the area and they were very useful in assisting communities, especially when it comes to small criminal matters.”

He said details on whether the comfort patrol officers should be armed with guns are still being worked out.

Augustine said he has also been discussing the island’s crime situation with Minority Leader Kelvon Morris. They are expected to meet again toward the end of this month.

Outside of crime initiatives, Augustine said the THA was also looking at establishing mass skills training and re-education programmes within communities.

“We campaigned on the fact that there must be parallel systems of education and yes there is a need to for the traditional academics. But we need to put some resources behind technical/ vocational education as well, skills training and make all of our offerings available to the community because at the end of the day learning should be lifelong.”