The failure of the Opposition to support the Anti-Gang Bill will have “very serious negative effects on the Trinidad and Tobago police’s fight against gangs and criminality,” National Security Minister Stuart Young said yesterday, following the defeat of the Anti-Gang Bill in the House of Representatives.
Young said he wanted the population to take note of the Opposition’s refusal to support the continuation of this unique Anti-Gang Act, even though the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) had said it was necessary and that it’s non-continuation would mean the end of ongoing investigations and charges against gang members.
Introducing the bill, which sought to extend the anti-gang measure by 30 months from November 29, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi said as a result of the Anti-Gang Act passed in 2018 and the pressure brought on by the TTPS, gang activity was trending downward.
The Attorney General said in 2018 there were 211 gangs.
“And what I can tell you today, according to the information from the TTPS, that number has dropped by nearly 38 per cent, down from 211 to 129 gangs,” the AG said.
“The total number of persons in 2018 in the public information as reputed to be members of gangs was 2,400 and in 2020 there has been a 57.75 per cent decrease, down to 1,014 persons reputed to be gang members,” he added.
“I can tell you, Madam Speaker, that the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service has been doing yeoman service. In 2018 they were able to have 22 gang-related murders solved with 28 arrests; in 2019, 13 gang-related murders solved with ten arrests; in 2020, five gang-related murders solved with 13 arrests,” stated Al-Rawi.
He said the information coming from the TTPS is that due to consistent targeting and pressure, gang activity had gone on the “downward stroke” and there were matters coming before the courts where individual elements were being brought by way of charges.
“We are now seeing a positive trending in gang activity going downward largely due to the pressures put on by the TTPS.”
Al-Rawi said criminal gangs presented a danger to public order and safety, to economic stability and had the potential to inflict social damage.
He added that criminal gang activity infringed on the rights and freedoms of individuals as enshrined under the Constitution.
The Attorney General noted it was the United National Congress (UNC) government which brought the first anti-gang legislation in 2011, with a five-year sunset clause, and obtained support from the then PNM (People’s National Movement).