On the grounds of anxiety, one might excuse Couva South MP Rudy Indarsingh for pressing the panic button over crime in Couva.
However, the notion that Couva is somehow more disadvantaged than any other part of the country when it comes to crime is hardly credible. Just a glance at news stories over the past weeks will indicate that when it comes to crime in Trinidad and Tobago, there is no longer any demarcation between hotspots and safe spaces.
MP Indarsingh’s characterisation of Central Trinidad as a “violent criminal hotbed for murders, theft, drug trafficking…and motor vehicle theft” applies with little exception across T&T. From east, west, north, central, south, and Tobago, crime reports appear with datelines less and less familiar to many people. Over the past few days alone grievous crime stories have appeared with place names, not only in Central but Guayaguayare, La Romaine, Fitt’s Road Junction, Biche, Princes Town, Oropune, Golconda, Fyzabad, Victoria Gardens, Beetham Gardens, Carenage, Curepe, Piarco, Aranjuez..…and the list goes on.
Some places had never made national news until some ugly crime befell one or more its residents. So while one appreciates MP Indarsingh’s concern for his constituents’ safety and welfare, he should not believe that constituents of other MPs feel any more safe from crime than his. At least in the case of Couva this week, police officers were prepared to hotfoot it to the crime scene. Such alacrity to crime reports is not the response many people get when they call the police.
One might speculate about how MP Indarsingh would have responded to the very same crime situation in Couva if his party were in office. Government MPs are notorious for their defensiveness about crime. Those in office invariably insist that the glass is half full while those in Opposition insist it is always half empty. For the rest of the population, the truth is more often to be found somewhere in the middle, between the political extremes.
The stark reality is that Trinidad and Tobago has lost control of crime. It is out there and on loose, no longer confined to predictable places or times. One is as likely to become a victim of crime while buying doubles at the side of the road on a busy street in broad daylight as one may be while walking alone along a dark, lonely road in a hotspot area. Crime is no longer a respecter of place or personality but a random act ready to strike with even the slimmest chance of success. This is why the statistical reduction of crime cannot be the sole target. What the population is desperately seeking is a sense of security in their homes, their neighbourhoods and in spaces both public and private. Our sense of security is what has been stolen from us.
In three weeks Gary Griffith will mark his first full year as Commissioner of Police. While one year is hardly enough time to judge a Commissioner’s performance it would be surprising if Commissioner Griffith is satisfied with his achievements to date, given the ambitious targets he had set himself.