Following the second murder in a month in their community, residents of Oropune Gardens are appealing for intervention from the authorities to deal with an upsurge in gun violence and other illegal activities in the area
The latest murder occurred on Thursday at about 9.38 pm when a man was fatally shot outside Building 4A. The victim has been identified as Calvin Carlton Straker, 27, who had addresses in Oropune Gardens and Samaroo Village, Arima.
On June 4, Kadeem "Smeagol" Young, 19, also known as DJ Kiddo, was shot dead outside the same building at around 9.15 pm.
One frustrated resident, Colleen Holder, said a community WhatsApp chat has been "lighting up with residents expressing their fear, frustration, irritation, anger at this situation that seems to be spiralling out of control." She said in recent weeks gunshots from a high powered weapon has been "ringing out on almost a daily basis."
According to Holder, last Wednesday residents held a meeting to discuss to take back their community from the criminal elements. Several agencies and officials were invited to the meeting, including Housing Development Corporation (HDC) Managing Director Brent Lyons, who failed to show and instead sent a representative from the agency's Facilities Management Unit.
She said the residents wanted Lyons to hear first hand about their concerns including:
° Illegal occupancy of HDC apartments which facilitates criminal activity
° Possible eviction of persons flouting community rules and engaging in illegal activity
° Use of unoccupied/vandalized units for legitimate community activities (Building 237)
° Lack of a community centre—no place for residents to meet
° Poor street lighting, poor lighting in the car parks and building staircases
° Poor road conditions
° Clearing of drains
° Status of drain pumps
°Overgrown bush on empty lots
Holder said Lyons and the Housing Minister Edmund Dillon recently did a walk-through in the community during working hours when most residents were not at home.
"But what did they see? What did they find? How are they addressing the outlined concerns of residents?" she asked.
"The blame for the spiralling crime in the community rests with the HDC. They are fully aware that they are not enforcing the rules that will allow the community to remain safe. There is a thriving hardware in the vicinity of Building 4A. Is it legal? Car wash parties on a regular basis; ear-popping music; shops and businesses that are not supposed to be operating within this residential community. The criminal activity is spreading throughout the community."
Holder said she was twice a victim of crime in the area. Her car was stolen from her at gunpoint outside her home last year, and one month later her house was broken into.
She asked: "Were residents who were brought in following various disasters given the same strict police once-over? What about the police certificate of character? When entire communities were brought in to Oropune Gardens why weren't they split up? This situation predates both Mr Lyons and Mr Dillon, but it has persisted. We have persons harbouring criminals, hiding weapons, facilitating the crime.
"HDC needs to enforce the rules and start evicting persons who are flouting the rules, evict persons who are operating businesses illegally, evict persons who are illegally occupying apartments, evict persons who are harbouring criminals. Work with the police, work with residents to make the community safe."
HDC has been contacted for comment and Guardian Media is awaiting a response.
Reporter: Rhondor Dowlat