Chinese businessmen, residents under siege in T&T community of Santa Rosa

(Trinidadian Guardian) The latest Chinese victim is a 74-year-old man who was beaten on July 28 and left for dead at his Pinto Road business place, which is located two buildings from the Pinto Road Police Post.

Another Chinese businessman, who is situated a mere 500 feet away at Avocado Road, was also relieved of the day’s sales as he closed up his business two weeks ago

Yesterday, residents called on the police to do their job, stating they are seldom seen patrolling the crime-ridden community.

The residents said due to the constant attacks they are now living in fear, noting it was only a matter of time before an innocent person is gunned down by the criminals.

Some residents, who refused to give their names, spoke emotionally about the beating of the elderly businessman who many described as the friendliest guy in the neighbourhood.

One villager said the bandits entered the Chinese man’s preserve business pretending to be customers around 3.30 pm, when the area was relatively quiet. The bandits pulled out their guns, jumped over the counter and started to beat the businessman for his day’s earning.

The man was then dragged inside his adjoining home, where he was hogtied and severely beaten by the thieves in the presence of an elderly female relative as they began searching and ransacking the house for other valuables.

“The bandits cuffed the old man repeatedly under his chin, face and in his midsection until he got a massive heart attack and collapsed. The bandits just did not care. All they wanted was money and jewelry,” one resident explained.

Residents said it was only after the man became unconscious that the bandits panicked and fled in a waiting car.

Residents were alerted to the robbery when a customer went into the store and heard the businessman’s female relative crying for help as she tried to revive the bleeding man.

“That’s when we rushed over to assist. The businessman’s entire mid section was bruised and black and blue, while his face was covered in blood,” the residents recalled.

The businessman, residents said, was hospitalised for four days after the attack.

When the T&T Guardian visited the business yesterday, an elderly Chinese woman who was behind the counter refused to give her name or talk.

“No. Not speak,” she said, as tears welled in her eyes.

But the residents said the woman had been severely shaken up and traumatised by the incident, hence her reaction.

A resident said after the robbery, the police admitted they felt embarrassed that a crime had been committed 50 feet from the station and they were unaware.

Two weeks ago, villagers said the other businessman, who operates a warehouse at Avocado Road, was also targeted.

“Apparently they were monitoring this businessman for quite some time. They waited for the businessman to come out with his day’s sale in the evening and robbed him at gunpoint.”

Since the robbery, the business, which stored a variety of items, has not re-opened.

Opposite to the warehouse, a worker at Kang’s Wok Chinese Restaurant preferred not to speak when asked if Chinese were being targeted by the criminal elements.

“Not talk,” he politely said.

Assistant Commissioner of Police Surajdeen Persad last night admitted that Chinese nationals have been under attack by the criminal elements at Santa Rosa, but said it was not unique to the area.

“It’s not only at Pinto Road…they have been targeting Chinese nationals throughout Trinidad. This has been going on for quite a while.”

Following the robberies at Pinto Road, Persad said they had increased mobile patrols in the area.

“The CID department and crime patrols have been paying particular attention to that. We are hoping to make a breakthrough very soon with these robberies,” Persad said, refusing to dwell further on how far police had reach with their investigation.

Told that the T&T Guardian had spent several hours on Pinto Road and surrounding areas yesterday and did not see one police vehicle on patrol, Persad said, “We have patrols and I will definitely look into it. I know we have deployed patrols in that area specifically to look at the Pinto Road situation.”

Efforts to reach the Chinese Association of T&T for a comment yesterday evening was unsuccessful.

Self-imposed curfews

In the last two months, residents said they had seen an upsurge of robberies in their community, which have them living on the edge and uneasy.

Santa Rosa has approximately 1,800 houses.

Streets such as King Orange, Tangerine, Cheery Tree and Plum Rose have been hit several times recently.

One resident said one group of bicycle bandits in Santa Rosa work in collusion with another gang from Pinto Road.

The bandits, who ride around on bicycles, would scope and monitor the movements of residents and business owners during the day, they explained.

“Then they communicate with another gang from Pinto Road and give them a feedback. Once they know the coast is clear the Pinto Road gang would strike. These Pinto Road gunmen would come in stolen vehicles and put down their work. Many of their getaway cars were stolen vehicles,” a resident said.

Tangerine Drive resident, Anne Springer, said the community was under siege.

“Everyone is taking precautionary measures. Some people are putting up towering walls in the front and back of their homes, while others are investing in vicious dogs to guard their properties.

“People are not going out as before. They are becoming prisoners in their own homes,” she added.

Springer’s neighbour, newspaper columnist Keith Subero, said other residents were installing burglar proofing and security camera systems to deter the criminals.

Subero admitted the officers attached to the post seldom do foot or vehicle patrols.

Another resident said many houses were cleaned out in the last few months.

“They would break into your home and steal your computers, television, small appliances and DVD players,” one resident disclosed.

“Quiet a few houses have faced this,” another resident said.

“To me, the station is like a resort or hotel for those police officers. We need some visibility. We need the police to protect and serve the community because this is getting out of control. Are they going to wait until a life is taken before they take action. We need help… and we need it fast,” Subero added.

Manager of Joy Mini Mart, Dave James, also disclosed he had observed a new trend developing, in that children as young as nine and ten years old were stealing snacks from his shop.

“Their parents don’t even know what they are doing. The area is becoming a hot spot for crime. I am going to invest in some additional cameras outside,” said James, who has seven cameras inside his business.

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