Trinidad security industry faces calls for clean-up

Dec. 9, 2013 at 7:30 PM   |   Comments

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad and Tobago, Dec. 9 (UPI) -- A mushrooming security industry in Trinidad and Tobago faces calls for an urgent clean-up after armed men held up a van carrying more than $468,000 in cash for distribution among banks.

The energy-rich Caribbean nation has come under unwelcome spotlight as organized crime gangs fleeing anti-narcotics operations in Colombia and Mexico have turned the country into a cocaine transit point along the route leading to Venezuela and Grenada, law enforcement officials say.

After this month's robbery, in which a cache of banknotes worth more than 3 million of Trinidad and Tobago dollars was taken, business leaders, media and senior officials repeated calls for greater scrutiny and oversight of a growing number of security firms, nearly all of them unregulated.

A security officer, Bert Clarke, was killed when armed men attacked a Sentinel Security Services vehicle on the Churchill Roosevelt Highway, the Port-of-Spain Guardian reported.

Tougher new legislation was needed to clean up the security industry, Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Commerce chief executive Catherine Kumar said.

"The [existing] legislation has gone nowhere really and our call as the chamber is, given what has happened recently, that [the] government take this up as a very urgent issue," the Trinidad Express quoted Kumar as saying.

Panelists at an anti-fraud seminar issued calls for an urgent review of security arrangements in Trinidad and Tobago, the Express reported.

Kumar said the security industry is poorly regulated. With rising crime, there has been a proliferation of security firms in the country and "we know all too well not all of them follow proper practices," Kumar said.

There is urgent need for applying international standards in the security industry, Kumar said.

Some of these officers are not well paid and don't get benefits, "so they are in positions where they can easily commit fraud," she said. "They are guarding our premises and have access to our goods," Kumar said.

Trinidad and Tobago has thrived on energy exports, switching in recent years from oil to gas production and exports. Oil and gas account for about 40 percent of national earnings and about 80 percent of exports.

With rising income and living standards have come social problems, high crime and the challenge of Latin American organized crime gangs setting up business on the islands. Trinidad and Tobago are located just off the coast of northeastern Venezuela and south of Grenada in the Lesser Antilles.

Trinidad and Tobago is one of the wealthiest nations in the Caribbean and is often cited among the top 40 of the 70 high-income countries in the world. Business leaders say both government and enterprise need to spend more on upgrading security.

Officials worry that growing crime will discourage tourism and energy business.

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