'Unofficial visit' highlights area, int'l law enforcement cooperation
by Jessica Loeding
Jun 25, 2012 | 1959 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bartow-Cartersville Drug Task Force Commander Capt. Mark Mayton, left, talks with Cpl. Terrance Roopchan of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service’s Criminal Gang Intelligence Unit on Thursday. The two met during the 2011 Operation Tradewinds in Antigua where Mayton was an instructor in gangs, drugs and intelligence. TONY ROSS/Special
Bartow-Cartersville Drug Task Force Commander Capt. Mark Mayton, left, talks with Cpl. Terrance Roopchan of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service’s Criminal Gang Intelligence Unit on Thursday. The two met during the 2011 Operation Tradewinds in Antigua where Mayton was an instructor in gangs, drugs and intelligence. TONY ROSS/Special
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An "unofficial visit" to the U.S. -- with a side trip to Cartersville -- still meant work for Cpl. Terrance Roopchan of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service's Criminal Gang Intelligence Unit.

Roopchan reconnected Thursday with Bartow-Cartersville Drug Task Force Commander Capt. Mark Mayton. The two met during the 2011 Operation Tradewinds in Antigua where Mayton was an instructor in gangs, drugs and intelligence. Mayton spent 14 months in Washington, D.C., doing program management for the Federal Bureau of Investigation Safe Streets Task Force under the Police Executive Fellowship.

During his visit Thursday, Roopchan said the training received in the three-week Tradewinds operation was useful in his native country.

"In the lecture with ... Capt. Mayton, we learned about the different trademarks of gangs. In the U.S. as to Trinidad and Tobago, what we learned is that the very identical tattoos and stuff like that, we actually saw them back home and they were signatures of gangs, but before that, we didn't understand that these were actually signatures, or trademarks, for gangs," he said. "So that itself, we could use that as evidence and we didn't know we could use that as evidence to prosecute these guys. So that was a plus to us."

The 14-year veteran of law enforcement said the training -- which featured the FBI, the U.S. Marine Corps and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service -- also taught representatives from Central America, the West Indies and other Caribbean nations about intercepting communications, technology and surveillance.

"The majority of gangs, we realized, back in Trinidad -- what we learned from the FBI and Capt. Mayton -- they take their traits from the U.S. All their traits, they look at it on television, movies and they bring it back right home," Roopchan said. "... My three weeks in Antigua, having interacted with the captain there, they brought a lot of information that I took back home and we actually put it into use."

In the country of roughly 1.4 million, Roopchan said drugs, guns and human trafficking are major factors in the crime rate. The murder rate -- 267 homicides have been recorded for the year, according to Roopchan -- is one of the highest per capita in the Caribbean.

Located just 7 miles from Venezuela, the majority of guns and drugs come through Roopchan's district in the southwestern part of the country.

Calling Trinidad a "major trans-shipment point for drugs and guns from South America," Roopchan said he believes some of the narcotics and drugs could be making their way to Bartow County.

"Since I have been here, I have been doing a little research and stuff like that. And I'm realizing there are a lot of drugs in Georgia, and some of it possibly, I believe, could be coming from the Caribbean," he said.

Mayton agreed. "It absolutely is."

The connections made during last year's operation are paying off for the two officers.

Roopchan said he is in the process of building a case against a man, deported back to Trinidad, who is suspected in auto thefts in north Georgia.

"The whole idea of the Tradewinds, even though we learn a lot of different and new stuff, was all about networking," he said.

For Mayton, the time spent teaching also was a learning experience.

"[The networking] allows us to gain intelligence on drug dealers, gang members, murderers," he said. "As I told you earlier, we are working a case with El Salvador on a murder suspect that is [believed to be] in our area right now.

"We have proven already that most of the drugs we are finding now originate outside of this country, so those networking abilities are vital. ... You know, we were there teaching those folks, but at the same time, I was learning what they were seeing and I could come back and apply those same things that I saw there here. I could see signs and symptoms of the drug activity and the gang activity from what we learned there here. It helps isolate drug dealers and gang members that come from abroad."