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Word has it that the twin islands of Trinidad and Tobago are harbouring their very own Avenger. Meet Gary Griffith, the Commissioner of Police (CoP) of Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS).

Silly you say? To hold a regular human being in such high regard? Marvel fans are fuming! Let’s get down to where all the hype for this man is coming from.

As you may already know, Trinidad has one of the highest crime rates in the Caribbean and has been bouncing around the top 10 highest rates in the world (…the entire world) for a couple years. Let that sink in. For six years prior to Griffith’s appointment, Trinidad and Tobago had an acting CoP.  Five years prior, Mr. Griffith was appointed the Minister of National Security of Trinidad and Tobago from September 2013 to February 2015. Little did the criminals know what would be in store for them in three years from then.

On 17th August 2018, Griffith took office as the OFFICIAL CoP of the TTPS…no ‘acting’ business over here. Just three days later, Griffith established a personal cell phone number as a crime hotline where citizens of Trinidad and Tobago can WhatsApp or text 482-GARY. Four days later he promoted 7 officers to Assistant CoP. Griffith then brought to fruition an anti-crime initiative involving officers on ground, road block exercises, search warrants against known offenders and patrols and searches in criminal gang areas. Griffith dubbed this initiative “Operation Strike Back.”

The very first Operation Strike Back took place on 2nd September 2018 and resulted in the arrest of 24 suspects in connection with homicides and serious crimes. Just two days later, Griffith pulls off the largest promotion of officers to Senior Superintendent; 25 officers were proud to hold their new rank as Senior Superintendent. He also promoted 39 officers to Superintendent.

On this same day Griffith met with representatives of the US Embassy Law Enforcement Working Group, Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Department of Homeland Security, US Military, US Department of International Narcotics (nope the prestigious attendees are not done yet!), US State Department Regional Security Office, US Department Bureau of Consular Affairs and US State Department Political and Economic Affairs (whew!). The meeting was held to discuss a working relationship between the TTPS and the US Embassy.


Operation Strike Back continued on several random dates between the 9th to 21st of September 2018. During this period, over 150 persons were taken into custody for various offences including possession of firearms and ammunition, seizure of camouflage outfits which were property of TT regiment, outstanding warrants, prohibited immigrants, marijuana trafficking, DUIs, larceny and other violent crimes.

FUN REMINDER: September was the FIRST full month Griffith served as CoP. A little over a month and he had already accomplished all the above.

Entering October, Griffith approved a request for pepper spray, tasers and other non-lethal weapons to be introduced into crime fighting by police. This request was made since 2014 (prior to Griffith’s appointment to office). The Trinidad and Tobago budget for 2018-2019 included a TT$104.7 million for upgrades to police stations, purchase of the non-lethal weapons mentioned before, purchase and installation of computerised systems, drones, dashboard cameras for all police vehicles and body cameras for over 6,000 officers.


Amidst his separate meetings with security heads of the European Union and High Commissioner of Canada, Griffith was buzzing between other tasks; such as visiting police stations across Trinidad and Tobago and documenting their challenges to committing to the clearing of Firearm User’s Licenses applications which are in a backlog up to before 2015. By the end of October there were 60 new police vehicles equipped with cutting edge technology that allows officers to respond to emergencies within 7 minutes.

BLOOP! Has it been a year? Nope, just two full months in office and he wasn’t done yet.

November brought on the drug busts. On 9th and 25th of  November and 4th  of December 2018 there were major drug busts and gun hauls led by Griffith. Between these two drug and gun busts he was meeting with French Security dignitaries and received a courtesy call from the German Embassy to strengthen the relationship between TT and Germany and discuss Germany providing intelligence gathering training to TT officers to counter terrorism. He also launched an Anti-Gang Legislation Training Seminar.

Then came the threats…

Criminals, pranksters, “haters” started sending Gary threats about killing him and his wife. Citizens who had grown to love Griffith and finally started to feel hope and safety were now fearing for his life. When questioned about the threats, Griffith’s response was, “I would expect to get these desperate threats on a regular basis. Certain criminal elements felt that they were in full control and this nation belonged solely to them to do as they pleased. Well there is a new kid on the block who will not allow these thugs to bully law-abiding citizens as easily as they did before; so these threats are expected.” A suspect was arrested and charged for some threats but one of the threats were actually made by a 12-year-old boy.

Griffith then took the opportunity to launch a campaign called “Street Talk” to address delinquency, gang involvement and youth development. The death threats continued for weeks and when approached again Griffith responds, “It seems that some are trying to make themselves famous by threatening to kill me, but instead of grand charging and boring us, I would like to ask them to stop calling and come! They could find me, I promise to make them famous.” From here on out, Griffith will be referred to as the OG.


The OG continued his quest to touch on all pertinent matters, not only with regards to criminals, but with the discipline of officers as well. The OG advised that all police vehicles on patrol had GPS installed and were being monitored by an Operation Command Centre. With this monitoring system one can know if an officer leaves their area of responsibility without just cause and monitor the speed limit on police vehicles especially when they go over the speed limit without an actual distress call. If held in any infractions, officers will be held accountable. Two police officers were already debarred from using vehicles with this monitoring system.

Nearing the end of November into December there was a stream of separate kidnappings. Every single Kidnapped victim was found and released within 24 hours. The OG warned kidnappers, “We WILL hunt you down.”

The OG had previously asked to give him one year to make a difference. He has been in office for four months and already made a year’s difference in the eyes of many. Some call him an angel, some call him an Avenger, whatever he is called the Caribbean is looking on with bated breath, hoping he succeeds in his quest to make a major dent in the crime rate of sweet T&T.

References:

— Crime Index for Country 2018 Mid-Year. 2018. https://www.numbeo.com/crime/rankings_by_country.jsp

— Trinidad and Tobago Police Service Corporate Communications Unit

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