Police Commissioner Gary Griffith says police have noticed an alarming trend of citizens rushing on the nation’s roads to get home before the implementation of the nightly curfew.
This, the Commissioner said, has led to a decision to intensify police action with nightly roadblocks, speeding and DUI exercises in the hours leading up to the curfew.
“Right now, the most dangerous thing to do is to be out on the streets in that last hour before curfew because it is like a racetrack out there, persons are racing, they’ve been by their girlfriend, their friends, their partners, some of them are drinking and they are flying at ridiculous rates trying to get home before the curfew ends (sic). It is just by the grace of God we have not any major accidents or deaths because of this stupidity,” Griffith said.
Griffith told Guardian Media in addition to surveillance from the Command Centre, police have also been receiving reports from concerned citizens.
“We are getting reports from people where they live, in different places, where they seeing cars flying at ridiculous speeds and likewise, where they are seeing several cars leaving places at the same time, just prior to the start of the curfew,” he said.
He said this is a u-turn from the situation during the last two SoEs, 1990 and 2011. He said at that time, citizens held curfew parties and their guests would overnight at their homes.
“Because of this type of SoE, they are not doing that. What they are doing is trying to maximise the time until it is time to get back to their homes, which will justify as well the Prime Minister (Dr Keith Rowley) cutting the curfew hours on weekends and even on public holidays.”
Griffith said when the weekend curfew began at 9 pm, citizens would lime at the friends or relatives homes until 8.30 pm and then rush to get to their homes.
He said the roadblocks including speed traps will begin at 7 pm on weekdays.
Griffith said the roadblocks are meant to be a deterrent to citizens to stay off the roads and to stay home.
“That is why I went in advance to try this from happening because the more people police apprehend, the more they will have to interact with persons and that can be an issue for police officers. We have already seen the number of police officers who have been quarantined and officers who are dying because of COVID-19, so the less we interact with the public, the better.”
Griffith: ‘No curfew passes to take a break from your wife’
Those who have emergencies can contact the TTPS at 480-2000, 612-3876, 684-5730, 684-5076, 684-5035 and 684-5233 for an emergency curfew pass, the Commissioner said.
But he said although temporary passes are being granted, some citizens have been trying to abuse the system.
“Persons are stating that their cooking gas finished so they need to go out during the curfew period to borrow their boyfriend’s tank, you want to go to your grandmother’s house for food because your wife expects you to eat leftover pelau, you requesting a curfew pass because your girlfriend put you out, curfew passes because your grandmother lives 12 houses down the road, to eat, you want a pass to go home because you are presently by your partner’s wife house, requesting a pass to take a little break from your wife, requesting a pass to go outside because you cannot sleep,” Griffith said.
He said these ridiculous reasons will not earn anyone a curfew pass. Griffith said those wishing to pick up or drop off medical staff and those with medical emergencies, among others, are being granted temporary passes.
Inspector Ashraf Ali of the Operation Command Centre said the temporary passes are only valid for a few hours on the night it was requested. He said the passes are sent via WhatsApp so they can be shown to police in the event the person using it is stopped.
Ali said to date, 287 temporary passes have been granted.
He said up until yesterday, 307 police officers have tested positive for COVID-19 and according to data released by the TTPS, a total of 906 police officers have tested positive for the virus since the start of the pandemic.
The data from the TTPS also stated that 13 people were arrested for breaching the curfew from Sunday night into Monday morning and 43 people received tickets for face masks.
Meanwhile, Ali gave statistics on the number of police officers who have been vaccinated to date.
“Approximately 2,000 police officers and not police officers alone but members of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service who are civilian employees, so it’s a combination because the civilian employees are also affected with our COVID numbers,” Ali said.