Pubdate: Thu, 27 May 2004
Source: Trinidad Express (Trinidad)
Copyright: 2004 Trinidad Express
Author: Richard Lord


New Attack Helicopter Unit To Fight Crime

DESCRIBING crime as the "one dark cloud" hanging over this country, Prime 
Minister Patrick Manning said yesterday the Government was moving to 
purchase helicopters with attack capabilities and high-speed sea vessels, 
to wage a war against criminals, particularly those involved in the illicit 
drug trade.

Manning also said that a state-of-the-art radar system from Israel was now 
being installed to help detect criminal activity in Trinidad and Tobago waters.

He made these disclosures during yesterday's inaugural "Breakfast with the 
Prime Minister" at Crowne Plaza, Port of Spain. It was organised by the 
Public Relations Committee of the ruling People's National Movement (PNM) 
and had more than 500 guests.

Manning said a recommendation for the establishment of a helicopter unit is 
expected to go before the Cabinet.

"The bulk of the patrolling of our waters will be done by helicopters with 
an attack capability, to deal with a lot of the high-speed craft the drug 
dealers use to transit the Gulf. And, we are purchasing high-speed craft 
ourselves to do the work that is involved in the inshore waters of Trinidad 
and Tobago," he said.

After speaking about the prospects in the energy sector, Manning said crime 
was "the only dark cloud" hanging over the country.

Manning said the new radar system would provide "coverage" to "critical 
parts of the country. That radar will give us 360-degree coverage of the 
coast of Trinidad and the coast of Tobago. In fact, it will also see beyond 

This last comment-a likely reference to the fishing dispute between this 
country and Barbados-had the audience in stitches.

Manning said the radar was also able to monitor up to a certain height 
above ground level and added that this would be "enough to deal with 
aircraft that make airdrops (of drugs) from time to time".

He said the Government has already taken possession of some of the new 

"It is our intention," he continued, "to utilise technology... in the fight 
against drugs."

Manning said: "We have aircraft and I have had a demonstration of the 
infrared capability of those aircraft. It will surprise you, that's all I say."

The Prime Minister admitted that there exists a problem "with the 
operations on the ground in the context of the drug trade, and we are 
moving expeditiously to try to correct it".

He then said such efforts would be significantly assisted if the Opposition 
were to lend their support to anti-crime legislation now before the Parliament.

Manning recalled that, in 1994, Scotland Yard Detectives had said that the 
drug trade could be eradicated in Trinidad and Tobago because it was a 
small country.

He also said that during Tuesday's National Security Council (NSC) meeting, 
it was reported by one security agency that about 35 per cent of the 
kidnappings in this country were "related to criminal activity separate and 
distinct from anything else".

Manning, who is chairman of the NSC, said when the total picture was 
examined, that figure would be significantly higher.

The PM said Government was committed to dealing with the problem of crime 
in the country.
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