In March 2011, I wrote an article entitled "Cockset Thinking" which was subsequently published in the Express.
The gist was that sometimes the response to dealing with complex issues was equivalent to lighting up a single mosquito coil, ie "cockset", and hoping to eradicate a severe mosquito invasion.
While it would be effective for a short period, the mosquitoes would be back with a vengeance once the flame had died.
In short, the approach was usually shallow and superficial with, on many occasions, a heavy focus on short-term PR mileage.
The misuse and indeed abuse of public relations is based on the myth of the "nine-day wonder" and the belief that people will soon forget an issue if it is ignored.
The theory is that if you can distract the public for an initial nine days or thereabouts, their concerns will disappear.
This is a huge mistake, especially in the era of Facebook and Wikileaks, and while PR can certainly play a supportive role it is no substitute for strategic and systematic long-term planning.
The reality is that public relations has its limitations and can even be counter-productive when used inappropriately.
For instance, if the automatic response to a problem is not effective crisis management but merely a staged photo opportunity and an ad in the newspaper, people start thinking that they are being taken for fools.
An inevitable consequence of this PR overdose is the loss of credibility and trust.
Leader of the Movement for Social Justice David Abdulah made the point in a recent TV6 interview that "trust and confidence in all our leaders has been shot and it's going to take a lot of effort to rebuild".
To do so he advised "they would need to start listening to the voices on the ground".
This is not easy, especially for those leaders who are overwhelmed by visions of grandeur and seek only the voices of those who sing their praises.
It is a weakness that has led to the downfall of many monarchs throughout history, including the infamous Roman Emperor Nero, who continued to fiddle while Rome burned.
Oversized egos often hinder the search for effective solutions because they believe that they alone have the answers.
Former minister Verna St Rose Greaves noted in another recent TV6 interview that "there are many competent people who are willing to contribute but they are excluded by persons who have egos that are bigger than their bodies".
This is a great pity in a country where there are many knowledgeable, talented and committed individuals at all levels of the society. Such persons, however, will not be comfortable in an environment where blind loyalty is preferred to professional competence and integrity.
In the 2011 article I stressed that "cockset" thinking could be found in almost every aspect of daily life and "one such area is crime and the plague of gang violence".
It continued, "It is widely recognised that this phenomenon is rooted in the lucrative drug trade and is unlikely to stop unless this transnational menace is eradicated.
In some cases, the reaction to the sight of young bodies lying dead on the roadside has been an impromptu anti-crime march or some other knee-jerk response.
These reactions are akin to lighting a "cockset", providing a type of palliative that fades as soon as the smoke clears.
Pastor Clive Dottin, a former member of the Police Service Commission, has consistently highlighted the relationship between the drug trade and crime and has stated that T&T is fast becoming a "narco-state".
He added recently that "behind every corrupt security officer, there is a lawyer, a politician, a customs officer and of course, a businessman".
Then, in reference to the young gang members who pay the ultimate price, he said: "There are the guys on the ground."
More recently, David West, a certified anti-money laundering specialist, noted in a Sunday Express report that "the increase in criminality must be looked at from the perspectives of white-collar crime as well. It is not just about the poor man in Laventille with a gun but about the money laundering which is taking place".
He believes that "money laundering is fuelling the increase in crime on the streets and in communities".
It should be obvious that the spiralling murder rate and the associated gang violence will not be reduced unless there is a sustained assault on the drug trade and its conjoined twin, money-laundering.
Piece-meal programmes like "Colour me Orange", while useful in the short term, are akin to using "cockset" to eradicate dengue.
Ag Insp Anand Ramesar, president of the Police Social and Welfare Association, lamented that "what we have are too many short-term strategies that cannot measure results and treat with crime holistically".
He added, "We are not seeing scientific studies, proper planning and strategic actions plans that are backed by proper research."
I suspect that the studies and the research have in fact been done but the ad-hoc approach continues to prevail.
To eradicate dengue permanently, we would need to move beyond the "cockset" solution and undertake a thorough cleaning up of the community.
It means cutting the bush, getting rid of stagnant water and throwing out all the trash. It also means doing it on a sustained basis, week after week, month after month, year after year.
A similar resolve and intensity is required to conquer the epidemic of crime.
—Richard Braithwaite can be reached at email@example.com