How can Jack Warner take any bit of solace or pride in the crime statistics he recently released? A quick examination of the numbers between 2011 and 2012 show startling trends, which point toward deteriorating security and an ineffective crime-fighting operation. Here are some quick takeaways from 2012:
Murders: up 7%
Wounding/Shooting: up 6%
Sexual Offense: up 43.8%
Kidnapping: up 47.5%
Robbery: up 17%
General Larceny: up 14%
To walk away from this report with confidence in our nation’s ability to fight crime would be like walking away from Carnival thinking Trinis have lost our ability to party. Foolish and you couldn’t be further from the truth! Jack Warners knows somebody must be held accountable. As Security Minister, that person should be him.
Triple crown soca artiste Machel Montano was yesterday found guilty of 5 criminal charges after a protracted legal battle that lasted more than 5 years. Montano was charged alongside producer/songwriter Kernal Roberts, who was found guilty of two charges stemming from the assault of four people outside of the Zen nightclub in Port-of-Spain April 26, 2007.
The murder toll shows no signs of slowing down. According to the newest report in the Guardian, the killing of Ziggy Harewood, a man in his early 20s, drove the murder rate for this year up to 313. This is up from the previous toll of 216 in July earlier this year.
Police investigating the murder said it was gang-related and stated he was “bullet-ridden” when found. In another incident, two men were shot near St Margaret’s Lane, Belmont, and are now in critical condition in Port-of-Spain General Hospital.
A new article in the Trinidad Express called “Ish, Steve will go free” by Asha Javeed, argues that despite the overturn of Section 34, the two may avoid punishment for their fraudulent activities. Senator Elton Prescott said that “those applicants under the now repealed Section 34 are going to challenge the constitutionality of the repealed legislation and…that they will do so successfully.”
Prescott presented his opinion during a forum on how to deal with the consquences of Section 34 at the University of the West Indies. The event, “Section 34: Dealing with the Issues” was hosted by the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies (SALISES) and was also attended by panelists Al-Rawi, Housing Minister Roodal Moonilal and UWI lecturer Bishnu Ragoonath.
How could this happen or be possible some ask? According to the article, others besides Ish and Steve have sought to have their corruption charges dismissed under Section 34. They include “former finance minister Brian Kuei Tung, Ameer Edoo, Maritime Life General Insurance Co Ltd executives John Henry Smith and Barbara Gomes; Maritime Finance; Northern Construction Ltd; Fidelity Finance Leasing Company Ltd; and former government ministers Carlos John and Russell Huggins.” Prescott, who is one of four senators who did not vote for the repeal of Section 34, said the Court of Appeals for the law will say it is “repugnant to have introduced this appeal.” He even went on to say that the government is doing the wrong thing and the repeal will not stand the test of time. He says that the amendment to the act that overturned Section 34 did not say why it was repealed in the first place, which could prove problematic in future legal matters.
According to a new article in the Trinidad Express, the murder rate for 2012 is up to 302 so far. Two violent crimes were reported at a pool party where youths were liming. According to the article in the Express, “Fatal Attraction,” a 19 year old male was stabbed to death after an altercation over a woman. The article reports that the male was cornered after he and his friends were chased by some of the men involved in the initial argument at the pool.
The other crime occurred after a couple involved in a physical altercation next another party-goer’s vehicle were asked to stop doing so close to his car. The male involved in the physical altercation then stabbed the party-goer in the chest following the victim’s request. The victim is now reportedly at a hospital.
Violent crime is not the only criminal activity taking place in Trinidad. Many believe that Section 34 showcases much more than the ineffectiveness of our government. Some believe it shows clear favoritism and the government’s willingness to prosecute some individuals with less evidence than others they choose not to prosecute. This has caused some to believe government handshakes go a long way. It was not until public outcry that the government repealed Section 34 to ensure that Ish and Steve could not slip through a loophole and avoid charges on allegations of fraud.
Another day, another murder. It seems every time we turn around there is another report of a life lost, a life taken at the hands of someone else. Today Trinidad Express published an article reporting the murders of four individuals that all took place in the span of five hours. The article, “Killers snuff out four more lives,” says the murder toll is now hovering at 280 for this year alone.
According to the article, the murders took place in Laventille, a hotbed for crime, Chaguanas, and La Horquetta between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. Those killed ranged in age from 18 – 33. One of the victims was a father of three. The Express says investigators “received information that a volley of loud explosions was heard in the area…” later finding the deceased in a car.
Another victim was killed after visiting a relative in La Horquetta, while another was killed on his way home from a party.
Although the police are said to be investigating the cause of the crimes, one cannot ignore what a pervasive problem it is in Trinidad. It seems every time we turn around another murder, burglary, or robbery has occurred. Greater measures should be taken so families no longer have to bury their family member prematurely due to senseless acts of violence.
As the murder rate hovers at 247, Jack Warner, the National Security Minister and former scandal-plagued VP of FIFA, promised citizens that a drop in crime was on the way. In a Trinidad Express article published earlier this week, “Warner promises a drop in crime,” Warner was quoted as saying “I am telling you here today, the fight against crime is coming. It will be swift. It will be visible, and believe you me, you will see a downturn sooner rather than later.”
What many will contend though is that the fight on crime should have already come, that Kamla’s SoE should have been more effective than it actually was, that the murder rate should be falling, not stagnating as it is currently. What many will contend is that our officials are behind on their job of making us safe.
According to the Express article, Warner did clarify, however, that his main job objective was keeping business owners “in business” because he understands “…the effects of crime on business activity.” Hopefully his goal of keeping business owners “in business” will translate in to a decreased murder rate too.
Justice Minister Herbert Volney announced last month that the government will be releasing 50 prisoners to celebrate Trinidad’s 50thanniversary of Independence. While this is a novel idea, it will most certainly have far reaching implications. According to a recent Trinidad Express article, “Murder victim’s dad slams Govt,” some of the prisoners being released could be convicted murders. In the article, the murder victim’s father spoke out about the injustice saying his son’s killers were at first sentenced to hang with their sentence later being reduced for life imprisonment. Now, however, they stand a chance of being freed not because their sentence has been further reduced or come to an end, but because the government believes it a novel idea to mark the occasion of the country’s 50th anniversary.
In the article, the man stated he has supported the his son’s killers for years through his taxes to ensure they stay behind bars, and now his taxes are being used to potentially free the very people who took his son’s life. This potential has sparked outrage among citizens. Many of the online comments have been extremely critical of Kamla’s administration saying the government could have done something that would still be novel and help society, such as feed 50 hungry families for a year (as commenter Obs01 suggested in response to the article), instead of put law-abiding citizens in danger by releasing criminals. The government has not indicated that it will change its plans to release criminals back into society to commemorate the anniversary or responded to the justifiable concerns individuals have with the release.
Although PM Kamla ran on an election platform of decreasing crime, the problem still persists and, in some cases, seems to be escalating. Despite government money being spent on efforts such as the SoE to stifle crime, places like Laventille are experiencing an upswing in murders.
The Guardian recently published an article by Derek Achong that showed how pervasive the problem truly is. According to Achong, the “murder toll” is now up to 177 even after “police and army personnel held increased joint patrols in the nation’s crime hot spots.”
In some instances, Achong reported, shootings and killings happened within hours of each other. The PM’s office is working hard to alleviate public fear by establishing patrols meant to stop crime. Achong had the following to say:
“At a post-Cabinet press briefing at the Office of the Prime Minister in St Clair, National Security Minister John Sandy announced increased joint patrols as part of the government’s anti-crime measures. He said the patrols were in response to an increase in murders across T&T.”
In Achong’s article Sandy was quoted as saying, “Joint patrols never stopped. Because of the current crime situation these patrols need to intensify…We need to apply as much law enforcement capability as possible.” Achong also stated that “Yesterday, Sandy also defended the highly controversial 21st-century policing programme, which was introduced under Police Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs.” All of this, according to Achong, was in response to public criticism about government initiatives, or lack thereof, to stifle crime effectively.
Laventille, known for bloody gang related violence, is once again making headlines despite police efforts to crack down on crime in Trinidad. A recently published article in the Guardian titled “Bloody start to the new year,” by Reshma Ragoonath, relays some disturbing figures that show how pervasive crime is throughout Trinidad and Tobago. The article states that within January alone there were “…some 37 murders in 31 days.”
The staggering figure is nothing new to members of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) like Public Information Officer Sgt Wayne Mystar, who was quoted as saying this year’s figure actually shows a decrease in the murder rate. According to Ragoonath, in Jan. 2011 there were reportedly 46 murders. 2012, however, is still young. It may be premature to project that 2012 will fair any better than 2011 in regards to the crime and murder rate. Memories of Laventille’s “gang war,” which broke out in mid-December of last year, still linger with many. The Trinidad Express ran an article titled “Gang war erupts” after two houses were “firebombed in Laventille” less than ten day after the “end of the 106-day State of Emergency (SoE),” which drew outcry and concern for the crime-plagued community and left many wondering were the violence stemmed from.
Speculation about the reasoning for this level bloodshed is rampant. An article in the Trinidad Express by Gregory Aboud, “Force-fed and erroneous diet,” offers a number of possible explanations–many of which link back to the drug trade and “a chemistry of deprived childhood…failed education and disconnection from society and the job market.” This may, in part, be a possible reason for the TTPS’ statement in the Ragoonath’s article ensuring the police service would do its job but requested individuals “…do their part too” and take “proactive…personal measures that will assist them in protecting themselves.”