PORT OF SPAIN — A detachment of soldiers marched through the hills of Laventille yesterday in an effort to curb the violence unleashed last week in the area by criminal elements.
The latest initiative, which National Security Minister‚Jack Warner announced on Monday afternoon after the area recorded four murders last weekend, was welcomed by most residents of the Beverly Hills community.
It is expected to last for the next couple of weeks with 24-hour patrols in Laventille. Around 1 p.m., a T&T Regiment truck, carrying about 25 soldiers armed with automatic weapons arrived at the Picton Road Police Post, which is being used as a temporary base. Teams of eight soldiers toured the communities on foot while they interacted with the residents. When a news team from the T&T Guardian visited the community yesterday, many said they were pleased with the increased presence of security personnel.
“We prefer these soldiers to the police. They not disrespectful,” one man, who wished to remain unidentified, said.
“Police does come here to advantage people. The soldiers just come here to do their business and they leave us alone,” the man added.
However, in a telephone interview yesterday, councillor for the area, Isha Wells, warned residents to be wary of the soldiers.
Wells questioned whether the presence of soldiers would lead to abuses of power, such as those alleged to have taken place during last year’s state of emergency.
She added: “We have seen such measures in the past with Operations Baghdad and Anaconda and during the state of emergency. None has worked up to today. “I am not against the soldiers’ patrols but that is not the real solution to the crime problem in Laventille. It is just a bandage on a sore.”
Wells suggested programmes which used counselling, mediation and literacy to solve the crime situation in the communities.
“This problem is a social one. Young men are growing up in single-parent homes or without their fathers who may have been killed in the violence,” Wells added.
The residents of Beverly Hills, a small housing development on the outskirts of Port-of-Spain, said the recent killings and shootings had affected their daily routines.
The residents denied their community was responsible for the escalating violence in Laventille.(Guardian)