“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.
“[…] Illegal occupancy, use of unoccupied / vandalised units, poor street lighting, poor lighting in car parks and building staircases… We have persons harbouring criminals, hiding weapons, facilitating the crime.
“[…] I speak from personal experience because I have been robbed twice!”
The following Letter to the Editor on the supposedly spiralling crime rate at Oropune Gardens was submitted by ex-TV6 news anchor Colleen Holder, just hours after another murder in the community:
Anyone who knows me well knows that I am a very private person. I don’t usually share on personal things, but that has changed.[Last night] the community of Oropune Gardens—where I have lived for the last seven years—has been rocked by another young man’s murder. At 9.38pm to be exact, and one month to the day that Kadeem Young was murdered on 4th June outside Building 4A.
Once again last night, all and sundry heard the shots from the high-powered weapon and a young man was shot to death outside Building 4A. We are starring in a monthly episode of CSI Oropune Gardens. Police using flashlights to look for spent shells, cordoning off the area and waiting for the DMO.
Our community whats app chat group has been lighting up with residents expressing their fear, frustration, irritation, anger at this situation that seems to be spiralling out of control. In the last few weeks, we have had gunshots from a similar high powered weapon ringing out on almost a daily basis.
This is an open call to the Managing Director of the Housing Development Corporation, Mr Brent Lyons, to deal with this situation. Last Wednesday, 26th June, the residents of Oropune Gardens came together to hold a meeting to talk about how to take our community back from the criminal elements.
Agencies invited to meet with the residents on the 26th:
- HDC – Mr Brent Lyons
- TTPS – ACP Patsy Joseph
- Traffic Management – Mr Dexter Wong Wai
- PTSC – Mr Bashir Mohammed
- Tunapuna/Piarco Regional Corporation – Mr Paul Leacock
The TTPS was well represented by ASP Jackman of the Community Policing Secretariat and other officers, and they gave very helpful tips on how we can keep ourselves and our families safe. But the HDC was represented by a gentleman from the Facilities Management Unit at Maloney Gardens.
He received the invitation letter the night before the meeting so, unfortunately, he was unprepared to address the concerns of residents—he was ‘the sacrificial lamb’ according to one resident. None of the other agencies were represented.
I hand delivered the letter of invitation on behalf of the Oropune Gardens Community Group, the Oropune Police Youth Club, Oropune Gardens Security Group, Oropune Residents and Friends, Oropune Village Council, 4th Avenue Youth Council and the United We Stand NGO to Mr Lyons’ office in Port of Spain on 18th June and these were the issues we wanted him to address:
- Illegal occupancy of HDC apartments, which facilitates criminal activity
- Possible eviction of persons flouting community rules and engaging in illegal activity
- Use of unoccupied / vandalised units for legitimate community activities (Building 237)
- Lack of a Community Centre—no place for residents to meet
- Status of a Business Park
- 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
But he did not attend. Mr Lyons and the Housing Minister Mr Edmund Dillon did a walk through in the community recently, during working hours when most residents would not have been at home. But what did they see? What did they find? How are they addressing the outlined concerns of residents?
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.
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.
I speak from personal experience because I have been robbed twice: my car was stolen from me at gunpoint outside my home last year, and one month later my house was broken into. And you know what? HDC’s rules say I am not allowed to put up a wall around my property for my own protection.
Funny thing is, I don’t want to move from Oropune Gardens. I chose this community to live in so I am not moving. The criminals are the ones who need to pack up and leave.
But 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. But do your part!!!
What is the HDC waiting for? For residents of Oropune Gardens to burn tyres and stage a noisy protest on BWIA Boulevard that affects the flow of traffic to the airport? Then the media comes in and we get our 15 minutes of attention?
No, Mr Lyons. That’s not what this community is about. The law-abiding, upstanding, mortgage and rent-paying residents of Oropune Gardens demand action. And we will be inviting you to another community meeting very soon.
The following is a response from HDC on 5 July 2019:
The safety and security of residents in all HDC communities are issues which the Corporation gives serious consideration. As such, the HDC, has developed and maintained a positive working relationship with the protective services such as TT Police Service and TT Defence Force, the entities responsible for the maintenance of law and order in the country.
There are several issues at play at Oropune Gardens which require a multi-pronged and multi-agency approach for resolution. Those which are within the control and remit of the HDC, such as the provision of Certificates of Character before the allocation of any residents and the eviction of illegal occupants in tandem with the TTPS, are on-going. However, the HDC cannot be held solely responsible for all of Oropune Gardens’ issues. The TTPS remains the sole entity responsible for the investigation of criminal activity.
To treat with some of the social issues affecting Oropune Gardens, the HDC has continued its community engagement efforts. On 27 April, the HDC Managing Director, Brent Lyons and an executive team spent the morning interfacing with residents and listening to their concerns.
During this interface, the HDC team was accompanied by the officers from the TTPS and the Oropune Police Youth Club. Many of the concerns raised by residents on that day, were noted and solutions will soon be implemented.
Further, on 31 May, the HDC Managing Director met with the Commissioner of Police to discuss issues related to the continued support from the TTPS for eviction of illegal occupants; security concerns of Oropune Gardens; continued collaboration with the Oropune Police Youth Club and the recently launched Commissioner’s Cup which is aimed at fostering greater community spirit among communities (including Oropune Gardens) and promoting better relations among residents.
As part of its ongoing activities, representatives from the HDC’s Social and Community Services Department have also visited the community many times this year to deal with residents’ complaints and other issues. In April and May, the HDC Managing Director and a technical team, comprising engineers, visited the community to finalise flood mitigation solutions.
With specific reference to the meeting held on 26 June, the HDC Managing Director was unable to attend but delegated responsibility to an officer from the Maloney area office, which has responsibility for Oropune Gardens and supervisors from the Security Department.
As much as our resources allow, the HDC remains committed to working with the relevant agencies to arrive at timely solutions for the residents—not only of Oropune Gardens, but for the residents of all the communities that fall under our purview.
Editor’s Note: Residents respond to HDC statement:
Following media reports on Friday 5th July about the latest murder in Oropune Gardens, this was the HDC’s response in part: “Oropune Gardens which require a multi-pronged and multi-agency approach for resolution. Those which are within the control and remit of the HDC, such as the provision of Certificates of Character before the allocation of any residents and the eviction of illegal occupants in tandem with the TTPS, are on-going. However, the HDC cannot be held solely responsible for all of Oropune Gardens’ issues. The TTPS remains the sole entity responsible for the investigation of criminal activity.”
So the HDC is passing the buck to the TTPS? The TTPS is responsible for enforcing the rules for residents laid down by the HDC when residents were given their keys? Rules such as the setting up of businesses is strictly prohibited?
What about the ownership of animals? What about illegal occupation of apartments, which facilitates criminal activity? What about the playing of loud music?
We invite you to meet with residents on Saturday at 10:30am so they can outline to you the real issues that are plaguing the community and for which the Housing Development Corporation bears full responsibility, as complaints about these issues have fallen on deaf ears.