Thursday, February 22, 2018

Fail to plan, plan to fail

 The two main responses of the People’s Partnership to the escalation of our already dire murder statistics reveal all that we need to know about the Government’s attitude to serious crime. We are already tragically aware that despite the promises made on the campaign platform—and the fact that crime and corruption represented the main issue that enabled them to secure a mandate—there is no crime plan.

First, the National Security Minister insults the intelligence of all citizens with the claim that the murders involved “criminals killing criminals”, therefore the law- abiding citizen has nothing to fear. It is a deflective strategy that reflects the Partnership’s outlook on dealing with the daily slaughter in our country: let them kill out each other and eventually there will be no more criminals. 

As an inopportune statement from a minister entrusted with the safety of a nation it ranks a very close second to Patrick Manning’s title-winning “collateral damage” remark. It is sad that Gary Griffith does not recognise that our murder rate does not reflect a civil society, whether the victims are criminals or not. It is killing, pure and simple, and out of control in our society, during the tenure of this Government and its predecessor. Though the ideal of no murders cannot be realistically achieved, the thought should always be to strive for that utopian vision with the resulting reduction in deaths along the way.

Secondly, the Prime Minister unveils her party’s grand crime combatant, a Rapid Response Unit that is simply a more efficient version of the existing system that is struggling to cope. While it is a worthy component in the fight against criminals, the Rapid Response Unit represents the total sum of the Partnership’s thinking on the matter. “Response” aptly describes their approach—reactive instead of proactive. In the T&T of 2014, it simply means that the police will reach the dead body a bit quicker. 

In almost four years in power, armed with the same knowledge that the layman possesses of the root causes of our despicable crime situation, the Government has not initiated a single meaningful policy to bring about institutionalised change. Therefore, it should not come as a total surprise (though it can never be accepted) when the standard killing spree is concentrated into a few days. In four years there has been the continued reluctance to use technology, to digitise the fight against crime. Not a single step to make video surveillance acceptable as evidence, even after such surveillance proved to be the unravelling of the State’s case against so-called criminals in the aftermath of the pointless State of Emergency.

It makes no sense to use 19th century methods of paper reports and archaic detection techniques to fight 21st century crime. The abysmal single-figure percentage detection rate has not been addressed with any thought or action to introduce a proper witness protection programme. So excuse us, Partnership, when we think that boasts of reading a “riot act” is a load of hot air. 

In four years of rule, there has not been an inkling of a plan to detect and remove the rogue cops, which makes the crime fighting system rotten from within. It’s about planting moles, gathering evidence and executing the cleansing process. The Government knows this, the Minister of National Security, given his expertise, is also aware of this. The exercise to remove contracts from known gangsters (if they are “known” to the extent that contracts can be terminated, then why are they not brought to justice as well?) is commendable only because it represents the minimal course of action taken, when so much more is required. 

The lack of action is a result of a lack of political will. The tentacles of corruption that reach into every corner of this nation prevents action against the sources of guns and drugs—we have to be realistic about the level of sleaze—but the standard of inaction that allows murders of Wild West  proportions to go unabated demands protest. Our right to a civil society has been eroded because our ruling parties refuse to act in any meaningful capacity (see “Clueless about crime” Express, March 2,  2013). 

Amongst last week’s responses by the Partnership, there has been nothing about detection, no cohesive thinking of an all-encompassing plan involving technology, re-education of police officers and a total revamp of the failing police dynamic. 

With just over a year until the general elections, the approach will be to apply the traditional plaster: create a spike of police action against easy targets, ensure a safe Carnival, then have a person “acting’’ in the entrusted role as head of the police bemoan the 400-plus murders at year end.   

The solutions would form part of a cohesive crime plan, but as there is no crime plan so how can we expect anything to be resolved? We gave a mandate to a party that lied about having a thought process to deal with the number one scourge of the country. Do not expect any changes on the murder front. There is neither the will nor vision to make the slightest dent in that deadly statistic. It is the most deadly example of failing to plan, therefore planning to fail. 

  • Sheldon Waithe has a degree in business and writes on sport and politics for T&T and UK publications