Hinds: Police not negotiating with gangs

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds. – File photo

NATIONAL Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds says no one has given any instructions to the police to negotiate peace deals with rival criminal gangs.

He was responding to a question in the Senate on April 16.

Hinds told the police “have never ever engaged in any such dialogue.”

He said, “It follows therefore that the TT Police Service (TTPS) has never informed the Government of TT that any such dialogue was undertaken by the TTPS.”

Hinds added, “It also follows that the Government could not endorse any such action.”

Government, he continued, has never suggested to the police that negotiating peace deals between rival gangs should be a considered approach as government policy.

Hinds said the Government expected the police “to continue to develop strategies in responding to the crime problem and other crime management issues within the country.”

The police, he continued, have produced several plans over the years to deal with gangs, “the latest being the plan of 2022-2024.”

Hinds said this plan allows the police to treat with existing administrative and operational issues with respect to criminal gangs.

Referring to a 2023 violence-reduction plan initiated by the police, Hinds said this plan “is designed to direct response to rising levels of illegal firearms as well as troubling levels of gang activity.

“The purpose of the plan is to reduce the fear of crime and criminality through the improved relationship between the TTPS and the communities around TT as it pertains to gangs.”

Police continue their efforts to dismantle gangs and increase their intelligence capabilities to deal with gangs. Hinds said these efforts are consistent with government polices on this issue.

He added those efforts include “conducting extensive data mining on gangs in accordance with the law, selecting the most violent gang members from the gang database in each police division and intensively targeting them, targeting the most prolific gang members, drug dealers and other notorious persons for specific action.”

Hinds said police continue to make effective use of the Anti-Gang Act, Interception of Communications Act and other relevant laws to disrupt gang activities and prosecute gang members.

Opposition Senator Wade Mark asked why the Government never issued a statement distancing itself from reports claiming the police were negotiating peace deals between gangs.

Hinds replied, “The Government did not have to extricate itself from any such action. The police service, led by the Commissioner of Police, made it quite clear, satisfactorily enough to the Government, on behalf of the people, that it did not endorse or support any such policy or action.”

He reiterated that the phenomena of rogue police officer and rogue politicians are not new.

He said the latter had resulted in people appearing before the court to answer certain questions.

In response to another question about a picture posted on social media of guns belonging to a prison officer hanging from a tree, Hinds said the use of firearms by prison officers is guided by the Firearms Act and the Prison Service’s firearms policy, and the latter outlines the procedure for the storage of firearms and ammunition used by prison officers.

With respect to this, Hinds said, “It should be noted that based on information received from the Commissioner of Prisons, the event was an internal, pre-planned prison officers’ only and in one case, an authorised person. It was that type of affair, held in a secluded, limited-access, high-security zone that had undergone a thorough security sweep prior to its occupation by prison officers on that occasion.”

He added that against this background, there was no risk of the guns in question being stolen.

Hinds said the photo of those weapons did not show there were high levels of security around them.

Mark was not convinced, He claimed there had been a security breach at the event Hinds spoke about, and called for an investigation.

Hinds said Mark’s claim that a breach had happened, and call for an investigation into this alleged breach, were inconsistent.

He told Senate President Nigel De Freitas, “The suggestion by the honourable senator is bald.”