Police ramp up patrols to curb gang violence in Tobago

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Police officers stop and search a driver during an anti-gang operation in Tobago on Saturday. – Photo courtesy TTPS

Police officers from Trinidad have been sent to the Tobago Division to provide reinforcement as police brace for reprisal killings as gang activity continues to escalate on the island.

Officers assigned to the National Operation Task Force were seen on patrol in downtown Scarborough and during stop and search operating in the capital on Saturday. There were no reports of any arrests.

On Friday, two people were shot and wounded in Carnbee. CCTV footage circulating on WhatsApp showed a silver Tiida driving up to a man sitting on a chair at the side of the road.

Two gunmen got out of the car and started firing shots as the seated man ran away. One of the gunmen chased the victim and kept firing as the car reversed until the second gunman returned to the car before it drove off.

A TTPS release said on Saturday, “This strategy comes to support the goal of increased safety and security during this Christmas season and beyond.

“Just earlier this week an alleged member of a Tobago Sixx Gang was shot and killed at an establishment in Crown Point. Head of Homicide Snr Supt Rishi Singh said police are preparing for possible reprisals.”

Police officers patrol one of the shopping districts in Tobago on Saturday. – Photo courtesy TTPS

As of Wednesday, Tobago recorded 13 murders, of which 12 were committed with guns. On that day, around 1 am, gunmen shot at a group of people liming outside a bar in Bon Accord. Fritz Alleyne, 61 and Akeim Frith, 33, reportedly a member of the Sixx Gang in Tobago, were killed while another man was injured.

Just the day before, 39-year-old mother of two Jenelle Thomas-Stowe was killed in her Signal Hill home. Police said it was a case of domestic violence.

While bringing motions of Christmas and New Year’s greetings during the final plenary sitting for 2023 at the Assembly Legislature in Scarborough on Thursday, Tobago House of Assembly Chief Secretary Farley Augustine said three murders in one week was concerning.

“More concerning is news reports that state that part of this involves persons known to the police and known to be involved in gangs that originate out of Trinidad but (whose members) are from Tobago, which says the gang culture is becoming nationalised as opposed to localised to particular regions.”

He said the people of Tobago needed to have an honest conversation about crime-fighting strategies and strategies to reform youths on the island “before things get out of hand.”

Akien Frith…shot dead –

In May 2022, then head of the Tobago Division ACP William Nurse told Newsday there were 20 gangs spread across Tobago and 70 per cent of the island’s most notorious criminals live in Golden Lane, Les Coteaux and surrounding areas.

But the current head of the Tobago Division ACP Collis Hazel said the police cannot say whether there was an increase in gangs or gang members as Tobago gangs used digital technology to organise their activities.

In a previous interview with Newsday, crime economist Anslem Richards said gang-related crimes had taken root in Tobago and a sustainable programme was necessary to get illegal firearms out of the hands of criminals.

He warned that anti-crime initiatives had to be organised and co-ordinated even as criminals were getting better organised.

“It has to be a deliberate set of activities designed to achieve the desired outcomes by police and all the other related state agencies. It must be an all-of-TT effort. We can’t solely leave it up to the politicians, all of us in the communities which are affected by the use of illegal firearms and by the murders, have to make our contribution in getting rid of illegal firearms.”

When asked for a comment on the increased manpower to deal with gangs in Tobago, THA deputy chief secretary Dr Faith BYisrael declined to comment.