On Monday last there was another terrifying incident of gun killings in which high powered firearms were used. This took place around 5pm, in the vicinity of the Pennywise Plaza, La Romaine, in the course of an armed robbery of cash in transit. This Pennywise incident contains many manifestations of our core national security deficiencies.
Having started from humble beginnings, the Pennywise business, a retailer of cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and health, baby care and beauty products, has grown to eight locations. Being easy prey to banditry will, of course, curtail investment and business development.
The bandits, who were out to rob the guards of the cash in transit from Pennywise, fatally gunned down two security guards and critically injured a third one. I join in condolences to those mourning their loss and in hoping for a good outcome for the critically injured survivor.
The employer of these guards was a private security firm in the business of moving cash from the premises of its clients using merely a pick up van. The first red flag of the armed robbery at Pennywise is arguably the lack of a safe system of work for the security guards.
I use that phrase deliberately to trigger a discussion whether the requirements of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA) can be met when an ordinary vehicle is used for the collection of cash.
Four of the bandits are also dead, killed by responding policemen, and investigations are being pursued regarding accomplices. In this case, there is room for assurance about the identification of the deceased bandits as the perpetrators and for commendation of the police work.
If the reports are accurate, this arises out of the use by the police of body cameras, some private security footage and the bravery of a stalwart, neighbouring resident, who saw the path of the bandits’ retreat and worked in telephone communication with police. This is how it should be, but it is infrequently so.
By contrast, we frequently have doubts when a police involved shooting occurs long after a crime is committed and the police claim that the deceased were “linked” to crimes that were not otherwise solved. Pennywise has provided the important, if small comfort, that the true perpetrators were caught.
The most chilling of the Pennywise manifestations is the further evidence of how successive governments—PNM and UNC, or UNC-led—have miserably failed us in providing the equipment and trained personnel capable of detecting and restraining illegal firearms importation through the legal ports.
I wrote last week about the easy penetration of legal ports of entry on account of currently useless or near useless scanners. Regarding illegal ports, I reminded readers of the UNC-led cancellation of the order for border patrol vessels. These observations upset a few who blindly follow the respective camps, but the country knows how wide open our borders have been left for the importation of guns and trafficked persons.
In the context of human trafficking, the Minister of National Security himself, Fitzgerald Hinds, has acknowledged in a media conference that fifteen beaches are “active points of illegal entry”.
The Government has credibly insisted that the UNC-led cancellation of the border patrol vessels hobbled the Coastguard and it has now provided two new vessels. However, it is an open secret that wealthy racketeering elements and persons acting in betrayal of their duty of fidelity to the state are involved.
Moreover reports of law enforcement equipment and personnel linked to crimes are growing and this phenomenon may turn out to be another Pennywise manifestation.
We must also be deeply disturbed at the calibre of firearms used at Pennywise and the proliferation of these weapons to the extent that there are underground retail markets where they can be purchased or rented.
It is reported that the use of bullet-proof vests and armoured vehicles may be insufficient protection against these high powered weapons—to the entry of which, as indicated, we have been left wide open.
Acting Commissioner of Police McDonald Jacob should recognise that observers will not be deterred from comment on our dire national security situation by his whining about “naysayers”. The politicians do that and look where that has got us.