Everyone's crime plan
At the launch of the West Port of Spain Experimental Traffic Scheme this year, Jack Warner, then in his capacity as Minister of Works and Infrastructure, said that the Police Service must strive to do more and that "far too many of our law enforcement agencies believe that they are all public servants...All of us want to work Monday to Friday. To get this society back on track, all of us have to pitch in and go the extra mile."
The Chamber is certainly in agreement that crime reduction is not a "government problem" and each and every person must be diligently committed to the efforts to combat crime.
However, the government must especially demonstrate that it is doing its part and fulfilling its obligations. An integrated approach involving the various arms of Government is needed if the nation is to see a dent in crime. This approach must be based on better policing and an improved judicial system, as well as an improved social services delivery system and more focus on delivering an education curriculum that facilitates the holistic development of our nation's youth. In the Chamber's own recommendations for the National Budget 2012-2013, we espoused three major initiatives in which the government must put its resources. These are: Prisoner Rehabilitation, Youth Development and Crime Management.
There must also be a concerted effort by our Police Service to put all its resources into the fight against crime.
Again, the Chamber shares the sentiments of the new Minister of National Security when he addressed the audience at the recent launch of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service's Police Caravan, where he took a very hard stance against any obstacles to efforts for crime reduction. At that forum, the minister warned police officers that he would be their worst enemy if they did not reduce crime. He re-emphasised this at our Breakfast Meeting on July 18 that his Ministry's plan was to improve the Community Policing effort, a commitment that we welcome. Although radical and to some possibly comical, the minister's suggestion that air conditioning be removed from patrol cars to encourage them to speak to the public, may, in fact, be one method of improving relations between the police and the community to help regain public trust and help to bring back the confidence in the police.
We maintain that the continuing high rate of crime, which is substantiated by the statistics, makes any intervention a war, and those committed to the struggle a twenty-four hour army, if success is ever to be in sight.
The Chamber has been in support of several elements of the much-discussed 21st Century Policing Initiative which was introduced by the former police commissioner and his deputy. We do believe that there is an opportunity to use that model to greatly improve the delivery of police services as well as improve the quality of life and work for the police officers themselves. Admittedly, thus far, the initiative has not been viewed by the public as sustainably serving the objectives of law enforcement for greater conspicuity, restoration of the public trust and community service. Following a trial of the initiative in the area a stakeholder meeting in the Maraval community was held in June this year hosted by the Police Service Commission Former Deputy Police Commissioner, Jack Ewatski contended that the 21st Century Policing Initiative was responsible for a 34 per cent reduction in crime in that area. However, the feedback from the audience during that stakeholder meeting indicated that the community did not feel as though they enjoyed an amicable relationship with the police, and that there was not enough police presence, not only of the police officers, but also the traffic wardens, to marshall peak-hour traffic and to enforce the law in the area.
There is now a new acting Police Commissioner and two acting deputies, and we believe it would be instructive for the PSC to capitalise on this feedback. We also look ahead to new acting Police Commissioner, Stephen Williams' plans to make the Police Service less reactionary and more proactive, with his suggestion of patrols in areas where there is a concentration of crime. Similar feedback by various communities collected during the Police Caravan drive, should also assist in giving the acting Commissioner a closer idea of what the persons living in communities will actually need from the police who are charged with protecting and serving them.
While there has been much talk of the minister's negativity towards certain aspects of the 21st Century Policing model, and acting Commissioner Williams has not confirmed if the police will continue with the 21st Century Policing Initiative, the Chamber too now urges both men not to throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater, as all new administrations are repeatedly inclined to do, but treat with it in the same way that the minister proposes to review the reintroduction of the Flying Squad: Discard the negatives, but embrace the positive lessons.
The Chamber empathises with the gargantuan task before the minister and the acting Police Commissioner. However, we will hold Minister Warner to his word that the nation should give him six months to prove that he can put a dent in crime. This was stated by the minister at our Breakfast Meeting in July. In the interim, as the nation prepares for a recently announced Week of Prayer to take place this month, we join the minister's call for a "murder-free week, a murder-free fortnight, a murder free month and then a murder-free year".
We agree minister, that nothing less will be accepted.