Guy-Alleyne: Action coming against public beggars

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Supt Claire Guy-Alleyne

W Supt Claire Guy-Alleyne says the police and their partner agencies will be taking strong action against people who engage in public begging and exploit children in doing so.

She made this comment during a public inquiry into child labour held by the Parliament’s Human Rights, Equality and Diversity Committee at the Red House on Friday.

“We have concerns about what appears to be locals as well as migrants begging on the streets,” Guy-Alleyne told JSC members.”

The police, she continued, sometimes take a soft approach to these cases.

“We try to warn persons, ‘Say, listen, you are exposing yourself to danger, stop doing this on the highways and the by-ways.'”

The police have recently realised this practice is not stopping.

Guy-Alleyne said, “So we have decided that we will partner with other agencies. But I’m not letting the cat out of the bag, because this could be a preventative way as well, letting the public know as well what we are going to do as the police.”

The police are joining forces with the Children’s Authority and Immigration Division.

Guy-Alleyne said, “We will have a joint intervention programme where we will go on an exercise and if persons are found begging, or even if they are in violation of, let’s say child labour or even cruelty to children under the Children Act, persons will be arrested and charged.”

She added that in this exercise, “We may even pick up persons who are prohibited immigrants, because this thing is becoming a nuisance.

Guy-Alleyne spoke about instances where drivers stop at intersections and people approach them to clean their windshields.

She said in these instances and other cases of public begging, “We see on the corners of the streets as well, we see children and adults, migrants and locals.”

With the soft approach not causing a decrease in this behaviour, Guy-Alleyne outlined how the police would deal with people begging in public and using children to do so.

“We are going to operate with a zero-tolerance approach and we are going to do it in a multi-disciplinary way.”

She said the police could not undertake such an operation alone.

“If we go alone, it means that when we get back to the station you have to call all these other agencies (Children’s Authority, Immigration Division, etc).

“We are going to plan a big exercise where we just go around and we will do what we have to do in order to curb this.”

Committee chairman Dr Mohammed Yunus Ibrahim acknowledged Guy-Alleyne’s comments about begging in public and people using children as tools to get money for themselves.

He asked how this issue is reflected in local culture.

“How does it apply to the nutsman?”

Ibrahim said some of these people have “residencies with certain (street) lights, within certain lanes on our highways.”

He asked Guy-Alleyne how the police would deal with these types of people who are operating in the same environment with beggars and their accomplices.

She replied, “Yes, and they are committing offences. Obstructing of free passageway.”

Guy-Alleyne reiterated the police have tried to persuade vendors on public roads to desist from doing so because it is unsafe for them.

“Some of them, you see them leave, but it appears as though we of he TTPS (TT Police Service), will have to give, you know, the tough hand and start to charge persons and take them before the courts.”

Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) Gender and Child Affairs Division monitoring and evaluation co-ordinator Makandal Caesar said the points Guy-Alleyne raised connect with efforts by the National Steering Committee on Child Labour to develop schedules of the types of environments where children can or cannot work.

Deputy Police Commissioner Natasha George said there are currently two matters before the court with respect to child abuse.

In response to questions from Ibrahim, George said police officers are trained to deal with both local and migrant children who could be victims of child labour.

“We have embarked upon several programmes to strengthen our officers in different languages, from Spanish to Mandarin.

“We actively have a Spanish (language) course that is going on at the St Joseph police station, and (as) part of that course programme, the officers actually engage with personnel on the highway close to Grand Bazaar (shopping mall) and educate those migrant persons, especially those with children, as to the ills and the problems as it relates to child labour.

“We also encourage those persons to bring those children to the (police) youth club within the St Joseph remit.”

George said this is done to give migrant children other options “as opposed to being placed in dangerous positions.”

Tunapuna MP Esmond Forde said while law-breaking cannot be condoned, there should be some empathy for people who are trying to make an honest living.

“It’s a hustle to get something to put on the table.”

Forde suggested collaboration between the police and the Youth Development and National Service Ministry to help people engaged in unsafe activities along public roads to earn money, find sustainable employment and possibly earn a stipend while being trained.

Opposition Senator Jearlean John said many cases of possible child labour seem to come from practices such as farming and fishing. She expressed concern about children being lured into the sex trade by human traffickers and said this was unacceptable for all children regardless of their age.

On John’s observation about child labour taking place in the agricultural sector, Caesar said the division has engaged the Supermarkets Association and farmers’ groups on this.

Forde asked why the Children’s Authority recently received 18 reports of possible child labour, compared to 121 similar reports received by the Labour Ministry over the same period,

Caesar said one possible reason could be that these entities have different protocols to determine what is child labour and what is not

Forde said there needed to be consistency in the way all agencies deal with child labour.

“We need to ensure that we get it right.”