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Ewatski promises safe Carnival
With Carnival almost five weeks away, all attention is focused on the T&T Police Service regarding anti-crime initiatives to ensure that the two-day celebration is not marred by crime, especially murders. Deputy Police Commissioner in charge of Operations, Jack Ewatski, unveiled some of the major plans and expressed confidence that Carnival 2012 would be relatively incident-free. He assured that “virtually” the entire police force would be out of the streets on Carnival Monday and Tuesday, conducting various initiatives including roadblocks and spot checks.
The Police Service has an actual strength of 6,300 officers. “That number, however, fluctuates on a daily basis, and out of that number not everybody is operationalised,” Ewatski said. “We have people on sick leave, maternity leave, education leave...We try to restrict as much leave as possible for the Carnival period, we do not allow vacation leave for the Carnival period.” A large part of the planning, Ewatski said, entailed a post-mortem of Carnival 2011 which required an analysis of strengths and weaknesses. “What we did following the 2011 Carnival, we did a post-mortem of our operations and our plans and how we executed those plans,” he said.
“Out of that post-mortem, we certainly identified all the effective strategies and actions that we took that produced a very safe and secure Carnival last year. “Crime was down during that period of time compared to other years.” Saying the executive would enhance and build on those plans, Ewatski said other specific areas have been selected as being in need for improvement. “We realised improvement was needed mostly in logistical areas in terms of how we move our people around and get them into the places where they need to be in a seamless manner,” he said. “Also how our officers would be given the comforts that they need to perform their duties...Sometimes we have officers performing static duties and patrol duties for a long period of time and they don’t have the ability to break away to go back to the police station to take a rest.
“We need to cater for that, we want to ensure that our officers are in a comfort zone to allow them to remain focused to do their jobs.” He said the Carnival planning committee of the Police Service was implemented several weeks ago and recent discussions were held with key stakeholders. “We have gone through a very strategic process in terms of consultation,” Ewatski said. “I am very fortunate to have people in the Carnival steering committee that are very experienced with the planning and execution of the plans, and I do have a very high level of comfort in the skills and the ability of the individuals who are putting together these plans.” He added there was already a very strong plan in place which would be executed with the same vigour as that of last year.
The role of a police officer during Carnival, Ewatski emphasised, would be multifaceted, taking into consideration issues of crime, crowd and traffic control. “Also heightened visibility and presence in different areas to ensure that people feel safe,” he said. “We will utilise the services of all the officers to ensure that people feel safe.” The largest contingent of officers would be concentrated in the Port-of-Spain area, given the fact that most activities occur in the city, Ewatski said. Other areas throughout the country would not be left unmanned during Carnival Monday and Tuesday, he added. Saying he had a better understanding and appreciation of Carnival, given his first experience last year, he added that his charges were already well prepared.
To ease traffic congestion in and around Port-of-Spain on Carnival Monday and Tuesday, Ewatski made an urgent appeal for car pooling and using public transportation. He said because of the vast volume of traffic flowing into the city, options were limited. “We’ve looked at that regarding how better can we move that traffic,” he said.
“It’s somewhat limited due to the volume of the traffic and the capacity of our roadways to handle that type of traffic. “It’s not that we’re not doing anything about it, but where do we move the traffic to? “The way the roadways are configured in and out of Port-of-Spain, there are not a lot of options...We need to challenge ourselves of moving people in and out of the city.”
‘Quiet areas’ well manned
Those seeking a quiet retreat at beaches houses and at far-flung areas of the country could rest assured that they would be well guarded by the police. “That all forms part of our overall plan...We need to police those areas also so that people are not in an environment where criminals may take advantage of them,” Ewatski said. A high police presence is also expected at fetes and at all events leading up to Carnival Monday and Tuesday. “We have to look at the behaviour of people,” Ewatski said.
“There is always risk involved when you bring people together in a situation...add alcohol to the mix, add individuals who do not see eye to eye, there’s a whole number of factors that come into play. “Police are well aware of the fact that we can’t be standing next door to every person so it comes down to personal responsibility.” Ewatski said ports of entry such as the Piarco and Crown Point airports would also be placed under heavy scrunity to seek out would be drug traffickers. He also assured that lawmen would also maintain their vigilance for Ash Wednesday at all cool-down events.
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