Sunday Express Editorial

LIKE Police Commissioner Gary Griffith who, upon assuming the office had staked his reputation on a reduction of the murder toll, the large majority of the population entered 2019 hopeful about a significant turn in the tide of crime.

With new leadership bolstered by the activation of a Special Operations Response Team, administrative improvements within the Police Service, a plethora of new legislative measures and even cash rewards, the fight against crime seemed well and truly on.

And yet, as the year comes towards its end, Trinidad and Tobago stands perilously close to surpassing its murder toll for last year and on course for registering its second highest annual murder rate in recorded history. The reasons behind the failure to keep murders down are varied and complex.

It had been suggested by Commissioner Griffith, for example, that the disruption of criminal networks by the police is fuelling internal gang wars to deadly effect. This is a well-known and challenging consequence of police crackdowns against the underworld which should be incorporated into police strategy. However, the lack of hard information to disaggregate homicide victims makes it difficult to determine exactly how many murders are actually gang-related. What we do know is that a substantial number of murders are not gang-related but the result of robberies, domestic violence, sexual assault, property disputes and alcohol-related anger, among others. While the Government’s legislative hard-tackle on gangs may reap some reward, the complexity of factors underlying the violence that afflicts the society requires a far more integrated approach.

Draconian bail laws and tough policing will only go so far where the fundamental problem has its roots in family and community breakdown, ineffective social services, and an education system that is unable to keep the attention and involvement of our young people. If there is anything useful about a murder toll of over 500 this year, it is that it underscores the point that T&T’s crime problem will not be solved only by tougher policing and legislation. While both are indispensable to the battle, their own success depends on many other elements working together over the short, medium and long term.

This newspaper has repeatedly tried to focus the Government’s attention on serious pursuit of a more integrated approach to crime.

While several governments have taken steps in this direction, most have remained at the level of talk and stakeholder consultation. In the few cases where recommendations were implemented, they have suffered from being partial and lacking the authority of coherent national leadership. This is not a job for only the Ministry of National Security or the Police Service. The factors that give rise to crime in a multitude of forms run deep and wide, including through culture, the financial and economic system, and the power relations within the society. No prime minister, however, has taken ownership of the problem as theirs to solve, preferring to delegate.

As long as the problem of crime continues to be addressed as merely one of policing and security, T&T will find to its cost that it has neither enough police officers, nor laws, nor jails to deal with it.

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There are apparently no clear solutions to these perennial problems. As road users, a weary population has essentially given up hope of solutions being proposed, much less implemented. On major roadways, equally as on minor roads, in built-up areas to the same extent as in villages and communities in rural districts, dilapidation is a fact of life. Often, generations of nationals go through this lived reality of bad roads and their deleterious effects on life in these areas.

Some years ago, a man was complaining to me about his wife of 25 years. The issues were not major; mainly the daily irritants that occur when people share space. But then, just like that, he said something that jolted me.

When Mike Pompeo, Donald Trump’s global legate, comes on his two-day State visit to Jamaica next week, he must be made aware that Jamaica won’t be quiescent about the often irrational behaviours of the US president, too many of which threaten to wreck a global order in which small states, like this one, are reasonably assured of protection against the arbitrary actions of powerful ones.

Sedition law is not about colonialism or gagging democratic expression. It is to do with controlling things that could lead to insurrection or mass disorder via speech and acts.

This is a lawless, bacchanalian society that is forever giving the hypocritical, self-righteous impression that we are holier than thou, making as if we walk on egg shells while ignoring that we are tiptoeing through the minefield that is life—our Trini life.

I read with alarm that Colm Imbert, the Minister of Finance, wants to make further amendments to the nation’s procurement legislation.