Griffith: Use army, terror laws against gangsters

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Former commissioner of police Gary Griffith –

FORMER commissioner of police Gary Griffith said on Monday the police are now outgunned by gangsters, as he urged tough new measures to deal with the ongoing crime surge.

He was speaking at a packed public consultation on crime at La Joya Complex, St Joseph, hosted by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

He urged that soldiers and anti-terrorism laws should be deployed against criminals.

Griffith said government policy can reduce crime, with a prime minister providing the right leadership.

“Gang legislation is not working. The country is drowning in blood and the policies we have seen – there have been none in the last seven years.

“The present administration, they do not understand. No one is an expert in national security.”

Griffith said criminal gangs had evolved and no longer consisted simply of men sporting three-quarters pants.

“These are organised persons. They are well-structured and they have massive financial support. In other words, these gangs can be referred to now as a small army. They can be referred to as militants.

“This is now a matter that is beyond policing. As (for) the TT Police Service, they are not trained to deal with a massive armed conflict, which is why the TT defence force took over in 1990 (during the attempted coup.)”

He said in 2020, he had used his military training to stop 150 men who were trying to storm into Port of Spain in an escapade he believed would otherwise have resulted in the city’s destruction, as in 1990.

“It is not just a policing matter anymore…

“We need to find solutions to deal with the gangs. They are a small army. They are no longer just persons going out and killing here and there.

“If a person has a reason to commit unlawful violence and intimidation, especially to citizens, that person can and should be deemed a terrorist.”

Griffith said local criminals possess assault weapons that can shoot 35 bullets in three seconds.

“If it is that five of them stand up here right now, everyone in this room could be killed in three seconds. If that is not a terrorist, I don’t know what is.”

By comparison, he said the 1990 coup attempt involved 100 untrained individuals using weapons he dubbed “muskets” – presumably meaning non-automatic rifles – during which a handful of people were killed.

He said the Anti-Terrorism Act can be used to deny bail, impose 25-year sentences and tackle those guilty of aiding and abetting and financing terrorist acts.

Griffith would also like to see 12,000 well-trained police and soldiers deployed against gangsters.

Looking at what he said was the successful clinical use of soldiers in Jamaica, he said, “We can transform TT. It requires the political will.”

At present, the Anti-Terrorism Act 2005 says three conditions must be met for an offence to be defined as a “terrorist act.”

Firstly, it must cause or be likely to cause “loss of human life or serious bodily harm; damage to property; or prejudice to national security or disruption of public safety” including disruption to emergency services; computer or electronic systems; or to the provision of services in banking, communications, infrastructure, financial services, public utilities, transportation or other essential infrastructure.

Secondly, it must be intended “to compel a government or an international organisation to do or refrain from doing any act; or intimidate the public or a section of the public.”

Thirdly, it must be done “for the purpose of advancing a political, ideological or a religious cause.”