Restrictions related to the Covid-19 pandemic have had little or no effect on reducing crime.
In an interview with the Express last week, social researcher Daurius Figueira said the murder toll for 2020 took off with a bang—from January to March before the lockdown—well on its way to surpass that of 2019.
In March, as a result of the lockdown, the toll slowed; and by the end of April, the toll was the same as that of 2019.
The murder toll for 2020 now stands at 169, compared to 187 for the same period last year.
“There were trends that appeared in April that sent the warning that with the resumption of population mobility, the toll will jump again, as there are scores to settle. The lesson then is that the perpetrators continue to set the agenda, and the national security apparatus of the State keeps playing catch-up,” Figueira said.
Figueira’s research specialises in the power relations of the illicit drug and gun trade, transnational crime, human smuggling in the Caribbean and Islamic extremism, and their impact on social order—all of which fuel crime in any given society.
He said the homicide detection rate is impacted by reality on the ground, “realities that arise from the nature of policing, realities that arise from the manner in which a case is prosecuted and the length of time that elapses to complete a case in the courts. These realities all impact each other, which emboldens or forces perpetrators to work harder at effecting measures to counter effective policing of homicides”.
Additionally, Figueira said not all homicides are the same from the standpoint of the perpetrator, since they are categorised into crimes of passion, anger, “...desire versus those that are viewed as necessary in pursuit of a lifestyle, a business interest. This then is a dynamic.
“Fluid power relation where the police, prosecutors and the judiciary have to be mindful of the countervailing measures of the opponent and be constantly responding to changes in method. What was applied in 2001 is not applicable to 2010 much less 2020,” he said.
What is urgently needed in the TTPS, he said, is internal reform and re-visioning towards “becoming organic in order to engage with transnational organised crime in T&T”.
TTPS given a lot of resources
Despite having a plethora of resources at its fingertips to combat crime, Figueira noted the primary issue outstrips that of resources and one must look holistically at the criminal justice system.
“It is the relevance of the response of the national security apparatus and the judiciary to the operational reality on the ground. If you are addressing a false reality, a reality that does not exist on the ground, then your actions cannot have traction of the ground,” he said.
He noted the problem then becomes one of perception and framing relevant operational structures from that extract of reality on the ground.
“To do this, you must be organic to the ground and throughout the national security apparatus, there are agents organic to the ground.”
However, he indicated such voices are stifled due to the bureaucratic noise and when this happens, “a State apparatus is imprisoned by this perceptual inertia, and technology is no saviour”.
Acknowledging blame must not be placed solely on the TTPS, Figueira said many security apparatuses have become so politicised “that with every regime change, it is broken down and built over in the image and likeness of the regime”.
Consistency and placing country first must be the key, he added.
“There must be constancy of vision and purpose above the political wars. The TTPS has its specific problems, but uppermost is its identity crisis heightened by the political dictates of 21st-century militarised policing.
“Applied to a policing unit that never was allowed to modify its colonial duty of social control for the coloniser which pitted it against the colonised”, the researcher explained that the Police Service must emancipate itself from its colonial legacy “and its neo-colonial expression of militarised policing.
“It has to become organic to the social order of T&T, and it has to know how to clothe hard power with soft power, for the potent driver of violent gun crime in T&T is transnational organised crime, and in its present bipolar condition it is not up to the task to battle with transnational organised crime, as is the entire national security apparatus,” he added.