Criminals have taken advantage of the shutdown in the country to go on a crime spree, burglarising and looting several businesses in the capital city.
Non-essential businesses in Trinidad and Tobago have been shut down until April 30, in an effort to contain the deadly COVID-19 virus.
The Downtown Owners and Merchants Association (DOMA) has sent a confidential e-mail to its members, informing them of the criminal activities and urging increased vigilance.
The e-mail, which was seen by the Express, says during the night-time period between April 3-6, the following premises were burglarised:
1. PNY Variety Store, Charlotte Street (burglarised—substantial loss)
2. Suzanna’s, Charlotte Street (burglarised—substantial loss)
3. Yip’s Branch Store, Prince Street (partially burglarised)
4. Construction site at Prince and Charlotte Streets (looted out completely)
5. Lucky Dollar on Henry and Prince Streets (one window smashed).
The e-mail said criminals brazenly cut into walls and looted stock.
“Windows have been smashed in one case, but in other instances, concrete walls were cut open and merchandise moved by unknown persons in batches until, in some cases, some shops lost more than half their stock,” it said.
The e-mail added that DOMA communicated with the police and intends to write again to National Security Minister Stuart Young to request patrols, especially at night.
“We wish to emphasise again that you should check your premises regularly, every day if possible, since many in the burglary trade are seasoned and hardened and know how to exploit circumstances as they currently exist. There is no substitute for your vigilance,” the e-mail advised members.
In a telephone interview with the Express yesterday, DOMA president Gregory Aboud expressed concern over the criminal activities.
“There is a degree of apprehension among persons who are not visiting their premises on a regular basis, and in consultation with the police CID and with the Commissioner, we have been advised the regular checks of their premises are a vital prescription for the battle against this sort of burglaries and so on,” he said.
He said DOMA was “cautiously optimistic” the police are going to respond.
“We haven’t had this sort of long absence from our premises for quite some time and, therefore, the business community needs to be aware of its responsibilities, and we need to keep the police apprised of our need for their surveillance,” he said.
He said they were assured the matter will receive attention.
Aboud said they are not fearful these criminal activities will persist during the entire shutdown period, and measures will be put into place.
He said the police advised that businesses needed to beef up vigilant security mechanisms at their properties.
Aboud said businesses across the country needed to secure their properties and even warehouses.
Criminals not sleeping
Also in an interview with the Express yesterday, Police Commissioner Gary Griffith said patrols will be increased in the city.
He said Trinidad and Tobago is on shutdown mode to fight COVID-19, but the criminals are not.
The top cop noted while there has been a reduction in violent crime, other crimes such as burglaries will increase.
Griffith said the police will utilise more covert and overt resources into the targeted areas.
He said undercover operatives will also be monitoring.
“There’s going to be a different type of crime now because of the closure of many businesses. The criminal elements, they’re not going to shut down, they’ve become desperate; they will be looking at different avenues to see if they can continue their trade based on lack of opportunities,” he said.
Griffith said these criminals may also target homes, and he appealed to citizens to call 555 if they notice suspicious activity in their neighbourhood.
He said on most occasions when these criminals break into homes, they would have spent days monitoring the situation and looking around to see how best they can infiltrate the home.
“So if you see any car or questionable characters lurking around, call 555. Bring it to our attention,” he said.
He added that citizens can also take a video or photo and send it to 482-GARY or the police app.
With fewer people out in public, it will be easier for the police to trace the criminals, Griffith added.