Death threats for Colleen

One week after she became vocal on the many serious issues and concerns including criminal activities in the Oropune Gardens, Piarco area the life of a former news anchor Colleen Holder has been threatened.

Holder received credible information on Thursday morning that there is now a 'hit' on her life.

The death threat also came one day after officials from the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) under the watchful eyes of the police moved into the area and demolished illegal structures erected by businessman Anthony Knights also known as One Foot outside and opposite to his apartment at Building 3A.

Knights operated a hardware and commercial shop.

Speaking with the Guardian Media, Holder said she received the threatening call about 9 am.

"The only information I got from my source was "green light" or "green lit"...shoot and burn, " Holder said.

Having already spoke to the police, Holder said she is yet to lodge a formal report in the Arouca Police Station. 

She said she also intends to write comprehensive letters to the Commissioner of Police and the Minister of National Security.

Holder, however, noted that she is not scared neither does she have any regrets for being vocal on the issues.

"I'm not scared. I have no regrets. Unfortunately though I understand now why people stay silent when they live in a situation where they feel like they cant speak out for fear of being targeted," Holder said.

Asked if she is considering moving out of the area, she replied: "I dont want to move. My next move us to just live my life. I  have received numerous calls of support from people of all walks of life as well as the community."

She said she strongly believes that it is not just her fight, "It's a community trying to regain its peaceful footing before it's too late."

Holder was also a victim of crime where she was robbed twice - her car was stolen from her at gunpoint outside her home last year, and one month later her house was broken into. 

Holder raised serious security issues following last week Thursday night's murder which occurred at about 9.38 pm where a man was gunned down outside Building 4A. He was identified as Calvin Carlton Straker, 27,  of Oropune Gardens and Samaroo Village in Arima.

This was the second murder in one month. On June 4, Kadeem Young, 19, aka "Smeagol" and DJ Kiddo was shot dead outside that said building at about 9.15 pm.

Holder said its residents are up in arms over the sudden increase in gun violence in the area and illegal activities and called for an immediate intervention by HDC officials and the police.

Holder said their community whatsapp chat has been "lighting up with residents expressing their fear, frustration, irritation, anger at this situation that seems to be spiralling out of control."

She also said that in the last few weeks they hear gunshots from "a similar high powered weapon ringing out on almost a daily basis."

Holder said 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. She also called on HDC to work with the police, work with residents to make the community safe.

Following her public outcry, the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) admitted that there are several issues at play but added that it require a multi-pronged and multi-agency approach for resolution.

In an immediate response to Holder last week, in a statement issued by the HDC, it assured 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 TT Police Service and TT 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 on-going. 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.

Over at the HDC's Clifton Towers in east Port of Spain, after years of public outcry from legal tenants police identified four apartments in three of the four towers to be occupied by gang leaders and family members.

The apartments – one at Tower 1; one at Tower 3 and two at Tower 4, were identified in a letter dated September 3, 2018. It was addressed to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development Edmund Dillon and sent by a senior police officer assigned to the Port-of-Spain Division’s Besson Street Station Council.

According to the letter, the police requested Dillon’s assistance on behalf of the tenants at Clifton Towers who lodged several reports that a gang leader, his family members and gang members were illegally occupying units at their complex.

The letter also indicated that the residents are afraid of being shot and asked for an intervention to have the illegal occupants permanently removed.

Attached to the letter the Guardian Media understands was a correspondence pertaining to previous complaints from residents.

The police also noted that it was recommended to employ a Housing Police Unit for Clifton Towers and subsequently all HDC housing complexes.

In February this year, major security and safety concerns resurfaced amongst tenants at the towers as they claim occupancy of an apartment by someone well known to them to be allegedly involved in gang activities. They described the occupant as a “gangster boss.”

Tenants also claimed that drug addicts also frequent the compound and can be a major security risk to them and their children.

On February 28, police officers were called to the compound where one of the tenant's vehicle was maliciously vandalized allegedly by one of the illegal occupants.

In December 2017 tenants called on HDC for permanent security in and around the compound claiming them that they live in constant fear of bullying and reprisal attacks by gang members after the HDC moved to evict illegal tenants from the site.

Former Housing Minister Randall Mitchell confirmed to the Parliament then that police and Defence Force members had evicted 15 illegal tenants on two separate occasions from the four-tower development, following complaints of unlawful activity and illegal apartment occupation.

 - by Rhondor Dowlat-Rostant

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