Thursday, February 22, 2018

Murder count works as political numbers game


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As suggested by Opposition Senator Fitzgerald Hinds, no improvement shows in rates of detection and conviction, even as the numbers of murders have continued to mount. Senator Hinds was commenting on figures supplied to the Senate by National Security Minister Jack Warner.

As ever, the count of murders committed, and of culprits arrested and charged, works as a political numbers game. Those in office, unable to mask the reality of bodies regularly falling dead from criminal gunfire or other means, point to a hopeful future, when strategies capable of solving murder mysteries, and of deterring their recurrence, should have taken effect.

In the opposition, meanwhile, a space now inhabited by Senator Hinds, the count of killings represents ammunition amply provided for targeting office holders such as national security ministers. Naturally, however, the feet held to the fire are those of political officials, less so those with hands-on crime fighting responsibility, such as police commissioners.

Eventually, the questions about murders solved become tirelessly repetitive, for leading nowhere. Only the objects of censure change.

Meanwhile, such is the state of hopelessness and helplessness into which citizens are plunged as to keep expectations low for the arrest and prosecution of more than a tiny percentage of killers. Citizens, likely counting themselves as prospective victims, know elaborately how much they do not know about the killing fields of T&T.

Discounting the relatively open-and-shut cases of domestic disputes, or criminal episodes "gone sour", citizens remain largely in the dark about what gives rise to killings all too routinely classed as "drug-related" and/ or "gang-related". Brazen hits by hired guns largely remain mysteries. The outcomes thus deny any possibility of deriving deterrent effect from arrest and prosecution.

That most murders remain unsolved also bears testimony to the refusal of people to inform investigators what they know, or have seen. Distrust of the police more or less matches fear of criminal reprisals against those taking the public-spirited line of denouncing wrongdoing to the authorities.

Apart from lacking public trust, the police also lack adequate resources in respect of skills, technology, organisation and sheer weight of numbers. Again, all of these are old-news shortcomings which have been addressed by initiatives ranging from imported knowledge and leadership to endless resupply of vehicles.

National Security Minister Jack Warner is betting on a boost in sheer numbers, to be achieved through recruitment of some 5,000 special reserve officers. Mr Warner is also urging T&T to place hope in the widespread installation of security cameras capable of capturing and recording for prosecution purposes images of criminal acts in the streets and other public places.

A weary public is equally hard-pressed to place hope in measures toward speedier justice afforded by the elimination of preliminary enquiries. But this should not prevent new Justice Minister Christlyn Moore from identifying this measure as a priority objective in the fight against endless murders.