‘No-go’ zones for service providers

The high con­cen­tra­tion of crime in some very spe­cif­ic ar­eas across the coun­try have cre­at­ed “no-go” zones not just for war­ring gang mem­bers and the gen­er­al pub­lic but for ser­vice providers and de­liv­ery ser­vice em­ploy­ees.

As a con­se­quence, those liv­ing in crime-rid­den com­mu­ni­ties suf­fer not just from vi­o­lence and fear but al­so from a lack of ac­cess to ser­vices that oth­er com­mu­ni­ties freely en­joy.


Ear­li­er this week, taxi ser­vice TTRideShare an­nounced it had halt­ed its op­er­a­tions in East Port-of-Spain due to the area’s high lev­el of crime and at­tacks on its dri­vers work­ing in the area.

While the move had some rais­ing eye­brows, checks by Guardian Me­dia have re­vealed that TTRideShare was not the first ser­vice provider to des­ig­nate “no-go” ar­eas for their ser­vice.

And where there is no al­ter­na­tive but to send em­ploy­ees in­to those ar­eas, ser­vice providers have to fork out ex­tra for po­lice and se­cu­ri­ty de­tails to ac­com­pa­ny their work­ers on the field.

In­ter­net and phone ser­vice provider Flow con­firmed to Guardian Me­dia on Tues­day that its em­ploy­ees do not go in­to East Port-of-Spain with­out a po­lice pres­ence.

Flow’s Cor­po­rate Com­mu­ni­ca­tion’s man­ag­er, Yolande Agard-Sim­mons promised to give a full list of “no-go” ar­eas.

How­ev­er, in an emailed re­sponse, Agard-Sim­mons said: “As a re­spon­si­ble or­gan­i­sa­tion that val­ues its peo­ple re­source, we take proac­tive steps to pro­tect both our peo­ple and prop­er­ty to the ben­e­fit of the cus­tomers we serve. There are no­table ar­eas across the is­land where se­cu­ri­ty is a le­git­i­mate con­cern, and in serv­ing our cus­tomers in a time­ly man­ner, we some­times en­gage the ser­vices of the T&T Po­lice Ser­vice or pri­vate se­cu­ri­ty of­fi­cials to ac­com­pa­ny our tech­ni­cians when con­duct­ing in­stal­la­tion or re­pair works.”

She did not pro­vide a list of ar­eas but said as­sess­ments are be­fore field vis­its to de­ter­mine whether se­cu­ri­ty is nec­es­sary for em­ploy­ees.

State util­i­ties like the Wa­ter and Sew­er­age Au­thor­i­ty (WASA) and the T&T Elec­tric­i­ty Com­mis­sion (T&TEC) have over the years al­so had to pro­vide se­cu­ri­ty and po­lice es­corts for em­ploy­ees work­ing in cer­tain “hot spot” ar­eas across the coun­try.

In an in­ter­view on Wednes­day, T&TEC’s Cor­po­rate Com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ag­er An­abelle Bras­nell did not iden­ti­fy any spe­cif­ic ar­eas but said over the years, the com­mis­sion has found it nec­es­sary to make spe­cial se­cu­ri­ty arrange­ments for em­ploy­ees on du­ty in some ar­eas.

Bras­nell said de­spite this, there was no area where T&TEC em­ploy­ees do not go.

“We have to work every­where, so what­ev­er pro­ce­dures we have to put in place to get the jobs done, we do that. I can’t go in­to what our se­cu­ri­ty process­es are, that is just not wise but we are re­quired to work all over the coun­try and what­ev­er is re­quired for us to get the job done in any com­mu­ni­ty, we do what we have to do to get the job done,” Bras­nell said.

She said the need for a po­lice es­cort was de­ter­mined by the time and ex­act lo­ca­tion where T&TEC em­ploy­ees need to be in a com­mu­ni­ty.

How­ev­er she said more of­ten than not, T&TEC’s se­cu­ri­ty arm will ac­com­pa­ny its oth­er em­ploy­ees out on the field.

“I can con­firm that we do have se­cu­ri­ty who are full-time em­ploy­ees of the com­mis­sion and their re­spon­si­bil­i­ty is to pro­tect plant and per­sons, we have that al­ready built in­to the sys­tem.”

She could not say what the cost of ex­ter­nal se­cu­ri­ty mea­sures amount­ed to. Sev­er­al pri­vate sec­tor com­pa­nies have adopt­ed an­oth­er strat­e­gy to cope with the un­pre­dictable crime surges—they em­ploy mem­bers of the com­mu­ni­ty so their rep­re­sen­ta­tives are not “out­siders” in the com­mu­ni­ties.

Sales Man­ag­er of RAM­CO In­dus­tries Lim­it­ed, one of the largest dis­trib­u­tors of Liq­ue­fied Pe­tro­le­um Gas (LPG) or cook­ing gas, Sean De Souza told Guardian Me­dia this strat­e­gy has been work­ing so far for RAM­CO.

De Souza said none of their op­er­a­tions have been halt­ed be­cause of crime.

“Some of our em­ploy­ees are sent to work in ar­eas where they are from, so they are well know,” De Souza said.

Kiss Bak­ing Com­pa­ny, mean­while said they have built re­la­tion­ships in every “nook and cran­ny” of the coun­try and have not had to stop ser­vice to any ar­eas due to high crime rates as their em­ploy­ees have good in­ter­ac­tions with the com­mu­ni­ties.

Mal­oney res­i­dent Son­ja Vaughn told Guardian Me­dia that al­though in­ter­net ser­vice provider Green Dot pro­vides in­ter­net in Mal­oney, its tech­ni­cians will not come in­to the area for main­te­nance with­out po­lice pres­ence.

In con­trast, Ch­agua­nas res­i­dent Ar­lene Lougheed said she had nev­er ex­pe­ri­enced be­ing turned down by ser­vice providers in the Cen­tral com­mu­ni­ty where she lives.

How­ev­er an­oth­er Cen­tral res­i­dent, who asked not to be iden­ti­fied, said when she con­tact­ed Flow for main­te­nance for her in­ter­net sys­tem was told she would have wait for sev­en days for a tech­ni­cian to vis­it her home in En­ter­prise due to se­cu­ri­ty con­cerns.

She said even­tu­al­ly some­one who was a tech­ni­cian for the com­pa­ny and lived in the same com­mu­ni­ty vol­un­teered to do the job and her ser­vice was re­stored.

South “no-go” zones

Giv­en the crime sit­u­a­tion in the coun­try, there are al­so cer­tain ar­eas in Mara­bel­la, San Fer­nan­do and La Ro­maine where util­i­ty com­pa­nies do not ven­ture with­out some form of pro­tec­tion, whether they be in-house se­cu­ri­ty or the T&T Po­lice Ser­vice.

Some of those com­mu­ni­ties iden­ti­fied by po­lice in­clude ar­eas of Train­line in Mara­bel­la and Corinth Hill, Tar­o­dale, La Ro­maine, Clax­ton Bay and Pe­nal.

How­ev­er, res­i­dents in some of those com­mu­ni­ties, in­clud­ing Train­line, Tar­o­dale and Em­ba­cadere said those agen­cies and oth­er busi­ness­es were not at risk when they en­ter their com­mu­ni­ties.

Al­though no one want­ed to go on record, a Tar­o­dale res­i­dent said many times KFC de­liv­ered meals to her home and she said that even the gas truck works in the area.

She at­trib­uted this to the deaths of the “bad boys” in the com­mu­ni­ty.

“Long time in the ear­lies we had that prob­lem. In the last few years we don’t have that prob­lem. Be­fore that I re­mem­ber the bus and the gas truck stop work­ing in the area. It was to have lil prob­lems but as they say most of bad boys die out. We get trans­porta­tion to come in here, but most­ly PH dri­vers. They charge $8 from San Fer­nan­do.”

At Train Line in Mara­bel­la, res­i­dents said their com­mu­ni­ty has a stig­ma but added that “things cool down here.”

At the Hous­ing De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion apart­ment build­ings in Em­ba­cadere, res­i­dents said years ago peo­ple, agen­cies and taxis were afraid to come in­to the area, but not any­more.

Guardian Me­dia spoke with a T&TEC em­ploy­ee who said the cor­po­ra­tion re­quests se­cu­ri­ty when work­ers go to some ar­eas in La Ro­maine, Dog Patch, Pe­nal, Train­line in Mara­bel­la and Tar­o­dale, and the ma­jor­i­ty of times the com­pa­ny’s Rapid Re­sponse Unit would ac­com­pa­ny them.

In Ju­ly this year, the Down­town Own­ers and Mer­chants As­so­ci­a­tion (DO­MA) is­sued an alert to its mem­bers, warn­ing them to stay away from the Pic­cadil­ly Street/East Dry Riv­er area to avoid get­ting caught in the cross­fire be­tween ri­val gangs in Port-of-Spain.

DO­MA said it had re­ceived re­ports of an open gun bat­tle be­tween ri­val gangs.

“We wish to strong­ly sug­gest that you and your per­son­nel NOT use this route at all from the re­ceipt of this mes­sage un­til we have rea­son to be­lieve that the ex­change of gun­fire across the route has end­ed”, the DO­MA state­ment had said.

The Po­lice Ser­vice had replied to say, how­ev­er, that the claims were not true and that the dis­trict was safe to tra­verse.

Reporter: Sharlene Rampersad and Sascha Wilson

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