On the heels of the second murder within the last month at Oropune Gardens, residents of the area are up in arms over the increase in gun violence in the area and other illegal activities.
They are calling for an immediate intervention by officials at the Housing Development Corporation and the police.
The latest murder occurred on Thursday at about 9.38 pm where a man was gunned down outside Building 4A.
He was identified as Calvin Carlton Straker, 27. He lived at Oropune Gardens and Samaroo Village in Arima.
On June 4, Kadeem Young, 19, aka “Smeagol” and DJ Kiddo was shot dead outside that same building at about 9.15 pm.
One frustrated resident said in a community WhatsApp chat that residents were in fearful, frustrated, irritated, and angry at this situation which seems to be spiralling out of control.
She also said that in the last few weeks they heard gunshots from “similar high-powered weapons ringing out on almost a daily basis.”
The resident, whose name has been withheld by Guardian Media, said last Wednesday, residents held a meeting to discuss how to intend to take back their community from the criminal elements.
She said several agencies were invited to the meeting including the HDCs Managing Director Brent Lyons —whom she said failed to show but sent a representative from the HDC’s Facilities Management Unit.
The residents wanted Lyons to hear first-hand of some of their complaints so that he can address them.
The resident said recently Lyons and the Housing Minister Edmund Dillon walked through their community but 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 issues outlined by the residents? The blame for the spiralling crime in the community rests with the HDC,” the resident said.
“They are fully aware that they are not enforcing the rules that will allow the community to remain safe. There is a thriving hardware near 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, “ she added.
The woman who claimed that she had been robbed twice - her car was stolen from her at gunpoint outside her home last year, and one month later her house was broken into - said some residents were harbouring criminals and hiding weapons.
“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, “ she added.
HDC working to resolve
In an immediate response, the HDC said in a statement that 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 T&T Police Service and T&T Defence Force, the entities responsible for the maintenance of law and order in the country,” the release stated.
“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 ongoing. 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,” it added.
To treat with some of the social issues affecting Oropune Gardens, the HDC said it has continued its community engagement efforts, the latest being on April 27, where the HDC’s Managing Director, Brent Lyons and an executive team spent the morning meeting with residents and listening to their concerns.
During the meeting, 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.
It further stated that on May 31, Lyons 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’s managing director and a technical team, comprising engineers, visited the community to finalise flood mitigation solutions,” the release stated.
With specific reference to the meeting held on June 26, 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, “ the release said.
- by Rhondor Dowlat-Rostant. Photo by Abraham Diaz.