Lennox Grant

Lennox Grant

IT once came to that. A calypsonian called Crazy gave to T&T the performance and achievement measure of 99 out of 100. Calypso to that effect comes over the radio on which, with the endless numbered options, we no longer depend for reliable identification about who, when, where etc. We who live and otherwise belong here must be getting used to adverse reckonings of our home and its related prospects.

Short weekend days before the climax of an election campaign, one that was run as an assessment of whoever is in charge, National Security Minister Stuart Young gained a front-page Express headline, “SCARY CRIME”. The minister was himself editorialising on the basis of statistics showing that 484 murders had been committed since New Year’s Day 2019.

Citing “another frightening statistic”, he noted that 80 per cent of this year’s murders entailed use of firearms. Of those killer guns, he specified, 99 per cent qualified as illegal. Somebody official is counting, for specific hopeful purposes yet undisclosed. Meanwhile, images, official and other, get circulated. Such as that, last weekend, of the woman, buxom shoulders obtruding her sleeveless blouse, sprawled in blood-reddish liquid on the Charlotte Street, Port of Spain, pavement.

Actually, some reports of the dead buxom figure, and also of an off-duty policeman there, now called the setting of “Chinatown”. So, in Port of Spain, on Charlotte Street, some criminal fatalities may now get recorded in the name of the newly identified T&T capital-site business quarter. To the extent that people like me, claiming born and bred status in PoS, feel entitled to expect that, renamed after the Beijing superstate today, Charlotte Street should expect benefits that include such area clean-up as could effectively counter the enterprise of killers, gun and other.

Images, captured by smartphone, are capable of being smartly transmitted to Beijing and elsewhere, even when not usably received at Police Headquarters on St Vincent Street, PoS. “That is the reality of what we are facing,” said Mr Young. He was actually referring to the wanton use of illegal and other firearms. Now, that has so far not deterred Chinese investors and other operators from giving effect to reasons for putting down business stakes here in PoS.

This is unlike the place we once knew. Back in times, police officers, uniformly wearing serge shorts and calf-length puttees in black leather boots, and regularly carrying maybe just 18-inch wooden batons, addressed themselves to the dangers of illegal daring. What has survived to this day is the practice of naming officers who had been called to the scenes of crimes, and who might thereafter be relied upon for help in the solving of what otherwise qualify as mystery criminal events.

Bottle and stone, big stick and boulder, dagger and cutlass, qualified as means to the end of waging gang warfare and combat in related badland behaviour. From all reports, the badlands remain unimproved, if anything worsened, drawing upon Mr Young’s statistical citations of increases in the PoS, Western, Northern and North-eastern divisions. Inside those neighbourhoods, police have held and charged 1,138, people for having guns and bullets (now called “arms and ammunition”).

If anything, the police in those back-in-times wanted more numbers, literally more men wearing the same style of boots on the ground. Less and less now, however, do police appear compellingly relevant, in the sense of being able to arrest the conduct of criminal behaviour and those so committing.

Consistent reports of victims at home, even in bed, being fatally assailed by gunmen, prompt recall thoughts about operations by the operatives who, back in the 1970-1980s, used to be called “death squads”. Firing guns, they killed for (political) purpose. But who could be sure? Ensuring death was their unfailing mission.

By last week, according to Mr Young, only 59 of about nearly 500 murders had been solved, in the sense of authorities’ having held and accused alleged culprits. Death squad styling is what prevails, as Police Commissioner Gary Griffith characterises T&T as being in a state of “virtual war”.

It’s a state of war, or whatever that’s advertised to mean if not people in combat readiness against others similarly disposed. Earnest action to keep suspects, or people about whom questions remain unanswered, amounts to trouble uncritically recognised

Mr Young and his government long for policies favouring the bitter prosecution of illegal gun possession. Somehow, the administration has come to regard criminal lock-ups as conditions to be feared. It is the enhancement of the potential of keeping inmates under suitable watch that makes for any satisfactory understanding of lock-up.

When it appears that inmates, without too much trouble, manage to escape over the literal high walls, some reckoning is in order for the conditions in which they had been kept. It is this reckoning that causes concern about what obtains behind bars. To people capable of contriving elaborate getaways from behind bars, what is to be feared?

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