Hinds tells conference of regional top cops: ‘Criminals threaten our way of life’

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

PHOTO OP: St Lucia’s CoP Crusita Descartes-Pelius takes a selfie with CoP Erla Harewood-Christopher on Monday at the 37th AGM of the Assn of C’bean Commissioners of Police at the Hyatt Regency, Port of Spain. –

WHILE acknowledging the challenges posed by organised crime to the stability of TT and the region, National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds said the gathering of police commissioners from different Caribbean countries would strengthen their capacities in responding to these threats.

In his feature address on Monday at the opening session of the 37th annual general meeting of the Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police (ACCP), at the Hyatt Regency, Port of Spain, Hinds said networks of organised criminals are a clear threat to the progress of countries.

He noted just as criminals collaborate across borders, so too must law enforcement to effectively counter these criminal operations.

The meeting featured commissioners of police from all Caribbean islands and also included presentations from members of the US’ Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) on law enforcement studies.

This is the second time TT is hosting the conference with the first being in 2014.

Referring to remarks made last month by Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who warned that guns and drugs were a threat to democracy, Hinds said a unified, multi-sectoral approach is needed.

At the level of communities, he lamented that organised crime creates a multitude of problems which are particularly damaging to young people.

“Organised crime is the catalyst for these unwanted ills. It is the main problem because it has spawned crime business models and made a big business of crime.

“It has professionalised it, made it transnational, generating huge income streams from drug trafficking and extortion and it has made the criminal networks powerful players in a number of our little communities around this region.

Hinds said in certain communities the profits generated from drug trafficking undermine the work of legitimate institutions by providing a false sense of success.

He said dealing with these challenges were particularly difficult given the rise in global trade and even moreso as the large profits from illegal operations could be used to turn state officials corrupt.

Despite this he said regional collaboration was an important step in disrupting these criminal networks and he referred to the seizure last week of $234m in cocaine which was bound for the US.

During her address, Police Commissioner Erla Harewood-Christopher said the meeting was timely as it came a month after Caricom heads met in Port of Spain to discuss crime as a public health issue.

Harewood-Christopher said she was confident the gathering would be mutually beneficial as expertise and experiences would be shared.

“During this week we will be spending here, I anticipate animated discourse and engaging high-quality presentations, social activities and entertainment outside of the meeting rooms, while your spouses and companions enjoy days filled with activities that will expose to them, the enchanting features of Trinidad and Tobago.

“I wish all of us a wonderful and memorable conference experience and productive working sessions that will yield historic and valuable recommendations and conclusions, that will serve to make our countries and region a safe place for all our citizens and visitors who rely on us to ensure their safety,” she said.

First vice president of the Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police, and Grenadian Police Commissioner, Edvin Martin, said while the complexity and intensity of security threats in the region have evolved, cross-country law enforcement partnership is needed now more than ever to confront these challenges.

“Colleagues we can’t ignore or shy away from this responsibility, we have a critical role in ensuring we adapt and evolve as individual states and collectively as a region to meet and defeat those challenges.

“No one is insulated from this,” he said.