Crime wise, it is all unravelling for the People's Partnership. The Minister of National Security's failure to make even the slightest dent upon crime statistics—any idle boasts about the "safest Carnival ever" have been cast aside by the murder spree that began on Ash Wednesday and shows little sign of abating—provides the grave reminder that like the PNM before it, the Partnership is clueless. Sure, the Partnership inherited a dire crime situation with over 500 murders per year, indeed it was a major reason that they got voted into power amid their claims of possessing a crime plan, which was music to a cowering public's ears; but thus far their approach has been farcical, toothless and mimics the wider range of "missteps" that plagues this administration.
One major problem is that successive regimes have not had the will to go after the root causes (big fish) of serious crime in T&T, so that we are left with mediocre attempts to try to apprehend the easy prey, the foot soldiers, so that at least some action is seen to be taken. The fact remains that T&T does not manufacture weapons, they are all shipped into the islands. That being the case the first action of any crime plan should be to secure our borders and cut off the feed of arms to local criminals. Then the local gangs can be targeted with any ammunition seized unlikely to be replaced. It's about erosion of the guns, the same erosion that is taking place among our people.
While we are told that joint police and army patrols and a revision of non-bailable offences are the latest attempts to strike fear into the criminal heartland, the man in charge of the country's security still says that he is not a believer of 21st century policing. This, while he stubbornly refuses to implement the technological means to improve the abysmal detection rate, a rate that reduces any patrol action to or changes in law to preventative measures rather than a proactive cure of the crime disease. Detection, detection, detection. It is the only tool that will create the necessary shift in the criminal culture, for at present it is simply too easy to kill, maim, rape and steal without repercussion. What manner of logic will it take for the Government to comprehend that without criminals being caught, all other initiatives bar the community-based ones, are rendered impotent?
The lack of implementation of audio and video surveillance in the year 2013, in a nation plagued by crime like T&T, is not just laughable, it is despicable. It shows ignorance, a lack of political will and a Government bereft of strategic intelligence. Audio and video surveillance should be at the forefront of a thrust to dynamically change the security landscape and bring the police kicking and screaming into the 21st century.
It should be part of a wider network that probes and gains evidence for crimes committed, past and present. The laws should support its use. The ailing witness programme should benefit from it, granting the necessary anonymity. Modern technology provides the means; are our governments so afraid of creating the trails of accountability that it would bring? Without a single example during our history of a "big fish" being brought to justice, the mindset of everyone in the nation, including the law abiders, is the truth: criminals simply do not get caught. Given the pontificating practised by the Partnership on the electoral platform, many believed that perhaps this would change. Alas, there is more chance of catching a big fish in one of the many dried up rivers, than to see one caught through a systematic process of evidence gathering that leads to prosecution. Quite simply, big fish are not targeted, so they cannot be caught.
Perhaps the major flaw of both the PNM and Partnership in their approach has been that their crime prevention strategy is individualistic, rather than a party-generated strategy. We have had successive appointees try to implement their own thinking upon the nation's security forces, this leads to a lack of continuity for the aspects that may have been working well, while also taking things back to square one. Crime prevention strategies should be generated from the party's think-tank and reflect the party's policy on how to execute these plans meaningfully and defend the tenet of a secure society. As such, the appointment of a Minister of National Security would entail that person being able to deliver upon these policies, rather than the practice of each appointment to the poisoned chalice of National Security being passed to a perceived saviour that will miraculously make the country safe again. An overall crime prevention policy would involve laws that support the measures to be implemented. It would establish clear lines of accountability within the National Security network and therefore remove the current 'doh know' procedure that provides escape routes from probing and necessary questions ("when was the blood and breath tests taken?" "Does the Flying Squad exist?" (I doh know).
But perhaps I am getting ahead of myself because that would mean that pre-May 2010 there was a centrally agreed crime plan and thus far, three years later, it still has not surfaced.
Come on Partnership, you are not serious about crime prevention and like your predecessor, you are clueless as to how to deal with it, even with the world of tools at your disposal to make the necessary dents (and maybe win a few all important votes). The SIA and Flying Squad revelations only provide further evidence that the wider unit responsible for our safety is in serious turmoil and that the status quo will remain. Rogue cops, decades of inept police practices and lack of proper investment in the right areas made it a difficult inheritance. But is it truly that difficult to think outside of the box and start taking a meaningful stride forward that will make a difference, rather than the side steps that only match the missteps? Unfortunately, I already know the answer...
—Sheldon Waithe has a degree in
business and is a freelance writer,
commenting mainly on sports and politics.
Sunity Maharaj's column
returns next week.