Hinds: Youths must build Tobago, not destroy it

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds –

Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds has called on young people to build Tobago and not destroy it. He was speaking on Monday following a shooting in Scarborough on Saturday which left four people injured.

Crime has been a cause for concern in Tobago with 14 people murdered in 2023 and a surge in gang violence.

Hinds also denied claims by Chief Secretary Farley Augustine that his ministry has neglected Tobago’s security apparatus. Hinds said Tobago is one of nine police divisions and is given its due consideration.

In an interview with Newsday on Monday, Hinds said what is required is twofold: “a law enforcement led by the police response to it and secondly, an appreciation of an engagement in the entire community that is Tobago and Trinidad.”

He said the influence of Trinidad in Tobago’s crime is there, but the approach to reducing it requires a collaborative effort.

“Trinidad might have offered you some of the people involved in the crime; some of the drugs; some of the weapons might have come from Trinidad. We are united as a unitary state and therefore what is involved here requires law enforcement, led by the police service, of course, response to what is happening on the ground in Tobago and secondly, a wider engagement with all of Tobago, and all of Tobago and Trinidad in getting the community involved because we are approaching crime as a public health concern, like we did with covid19. That tells us that it involves everyone, not just the police service.”

In 2022 former Tobago ACP William Nurse claimed there were 20 gangs in Tobago and gang violence was one of his biggest challenges.

Augustine on Sunday called on the Prime Minister, the head of the National Security Council, to make Tobago’s security a priority. Last week, Augustine revealed that the THA would be stepping up its social programmes to deal with the rising crime on the island.

Augustine said central government has taken Tobago’s security for granted and not equipped its protected services adequately, noting that the THA’s crime response is limited by the THA Act.

He called on the Prime Minister and minister of national security to address the recent spate of violence in Tobago. Augustine said, “It’s under their purview. They are always quick to point out where they have responsibility, and this is something they need to take up.”

Hinds responded, “The chief secretary is entitled to his expression, entitled to his opinion, which does not in itself guarantee accuracy. I am aware that the Tobago police division is one division of the police service, and it is administered like every other division with acceptance of and recognition of the peculiarities of it because it operates in the island of Tobago.”

He said he is in in regular contact with the leadership of the police, and he has an assurance to the people of Tobago.

“The Ministry of National Security continues to focus on the safety and the security of the people of TT and more immediately strengthening our border fences, given the transnational nature of a lot of the crimes.”

He said the gun used in criminal activities locally were not manufactured here.

“The ammunition wasn’t manufactured in TT; some of the human trafficking involves persons from outside of TT. So given the transnational nature of the crimes, our border security is very, very important and the ministry of national security gives the assurance that like every other division, we provide the resources to support law enforcement.”

He said at the same time at a governmental level, the resources are provided to ensure that young people are given adequate opportunities for their progress, for proper legitimate pathways to earning money and livelihood, “and this is evident when you look at the number of young people who have assumed leadership in various institutions of TT, including the THA.”

He said Tobagonians must recognise that they are living on a little piece of paradise.

“The Tobago place doesn’t have to taste human blood in the way that it is now manifesting. In fact, it should be drenched with the sweat, power and the ambitions of the people of Tobago, particularly the young people to build it, not to kill and to destroy but to preserve and to strengthen and to encourage, and to protect tourists when they come. You don’t have to thief and do ill to become a winner, there are opportunities for all of us.”

He called for public co-operation with law enforcement.

“If the police don’t know and worse if you keep it a secret from them, you’re putting Tobago at greater and greater risk. Share it with the police and let the police come and take the guns out, the guns that fuel the crime. Then the life you save may just be your own.”

Commenting on the state of crime, one Scarborough business owner expressed shock at the prevalence of guns on the island: “Too many guns, everything now is gun-related and that is scary. Some days I am afraid to open my business place because it keeps coming closer and closer, they are not afraid, because the last incident was committed right here in the capital – it is scary.”

Another business owner said: “Tobago is a very small island, and everybody basically knows everybody, so it’s time that we speak up and take back our island. My home island was never like this.”

A pedestrian who wished to stay anonymous said: “They need to bring back the hangman, Tobago was never like this.”