Four graphic bits of footage, taken by CCTV surveillance cameras, were shown at a news conference on Tuesday at the Office of the Prime Minister, St Clair, after a lengthy meeting of the National Security Council under Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar. The footage depicted robberies and shootings.
“You may recognise some of the faces from recent pictures,” said Deputy Police Commissioner, Mervyn Richardson. “This is a sample of what is going on.”
There are really two points coming out of this episode.
Firstly, the fight against crime is hampered by evidential woes. Victims are often afraid to testify, while video footage is of limited value, say in being able to “prove” a concealed item is in fact a gun. Further, Richardson admitted that the video footage of suspects was taken before the August 15 date on which the Anti-Gang Act came into force, and so could not be used to prosecute anyone under that law.
Regarding victims/witnesses, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan lamented, “People (victims) are actually terrified. So you are faced with a situation where you are seeing criminal activity, you are seeing criminals in operation but you are helpless at the State to do anything about it”.
Secondly, the footage shows an almost unbelievable degree of brazenness displayed by the criminals. In broad daylight, without any effort to conceal their faces, four men boldly walk up to a car stuck in traffic, lean inside and steal valuables from the helpless driver. While much of the fear of crime is usually generated by the sound and fury of a bandit attack, on the other hand we say the Nelson Street crimes show a casualness that is equally chilling.
It began with the perpetrators sitting around, then casually strolling up to their victim, robbing him, then sauntering away without a second thought. They looked as if they were very accustomed to carry out such raids, and would probably continue to do so in the future.
These bandits preyed on the motorists in the same way that a band of hyenas stalks a herd of gazelle. This is unacceptable for any society that seeks development.
Likewise, for years now motorists on the Beetham Highway have complained of getting robbed, either when stuck in traffic or by assailants throwing planks of wood or concrete blocks at their windscreens in order to stop them and rob them.
While such perpetrators will cite their own entitlement to human rights if and when they are arrested, we ask do they ever give a second thought to the rights of their victims to go about their business without being assaulted? When the Nelson Street quartet saunters off, are they aware of the hellish hours in the coming weeks and months in which their victim will recount the assault, in which he/she might have lost life and limb?
Most persons in any community are decent, law-abiding citizens. The law-abiding citizens of Nelson Street deserve the understanding and the sympathy of us all. We understand their concerns that the innocent may well be caught up in the net cast by the police to deal with the criminal element.
But it is clear that there is a crime problem on Nelson Street. We recall that every couple of months, there is a murder there, even as we note Richardson’s verdict that, “They are shooting at each other on Nelson Street in broad daylight”.
We’d suggest that if anyone on Nelson Street knows he was involved in crimes such as shown on the CCTV footage, he should now hold off on celebrating, but give pause for thought.
One’s release doesn’t prove one’s innocence, but simply that any evidence against one does not meet strict legal requirements.
While the Anti-Gang Act was passed by Parliament in May, inexplicably it was not proclaimed until August 15. This delay has meant that much evidence against gang members formerly collected by the police cannot now be used.
We urge miscreants not to take succour from the recent events on Nelson Street, but to change their errant ways, even as the Government has said it is undeterred in its fight against crime. All that is needed to impose stiff anti-gang penalties, we warn miscreants, is fresh evidence, obtained after August 15.