PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) – The Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) Monday warned that some of the country’s main ports of entry, including the Piarco International Airport, have been compromised as law enforcement authorities said they have seized 60 high powered rifles so far this year.
Comparing the current crime situation in Trinidad to that in Jamaica, acting police commissioner, McDonald Jacob, said Trinidad and Tobago is battling the use of persons using illegal firearms in committing murders.
“The idea that most of our firearms may be coming from the mainland in Venezuela, we have proven that …the bulk of our firearms is not necessarily coming from there. We have the factual information," he said. "We have persons who were charged in Georgia and other places for sending up to 36 firearms to Trinidad and Tobago…because once you purchase firearms and they are involved in criminal activities in another country within a two year period, you can be charged in North America for so doing.”
Jacob said local authorities are working with all the various agencies in the United States, including Homeland Security, to combat the issue of illegal guns.
"We have firearms even coming in from Miami. A lot of work has to be done to prevent the level of firearms (illegally) coming into the country. Jamaica is going through the same issue," Jacob said, noting that media reports Monday quoted Prime Minister Andrew Holness sending a warning to criminals.
“We are talking about the firearms coming in barrels. We held persons recently with firearms in washing machines. We intercepted vehicles coming from the ports…so the same problems we are having here, Jamaica is having the same problems," he said. “So they are now changing their laws and to prevent persons from getting bail for possession of firearms. They are going to do some form of amnesty and they are going to tighten up their laws in relation to firearm possession."
Jacob said that the problem in Trinidad and Tobago is compounded also by the fact that many young people feel empowered when in possession of a gun.
“Our concern now in Trinidad is just not that it is illegal, we may have other issues with legal firearms also…and I mentioned to the media over the weekend about the psychology of firearm possession and I told them it will take a 14-year-old boy to become a man because he has a firearm in his hand…
“They want to know why we have this brazen shooting, because when persons have a high-powered weapon they are empowered, they feel strong, invincible. It is not a matter of not having police patrols or police presence, it is the psychology of firearms and how it will make people feel…and then you have some charismatic gang leader who is talking to these young men and the end product is what we are seeing on the streets of Trinidad and Tobago,” Jacob told radio listeners.
Over the last weekend, Trinidad and Tobago recorded several murders including two men shot by gunmen pretending to be law enforcement officers on Saturday night.
In one of the incidents, police said they had recovered 35 spent shells at the scene, with 10 bearing the markings of the Trinidad and Tobago Regiment.
Police also reported that a 28-year-old man was shot dead while having sex with his 30-year-old girlfriend in Valencia on Saturday night.
Jacob said the police have introduced several strategies to deal with the upsurge in criminal activities, including cancelling leave for police officers.
So far the country has recorded more than 260 murders this year. Last year, Trinidad and Tobago recorded 450 murders.