Police PoS dragnet must make difference
The dragnet that on Sunday descended upon crime-troubled blocks in east Port of Spain conveyed a reassuring message of willingness to take bold initiatives. The motivation to take the fight to the criminal enemy signals a welcome fight-back capacity in an area where murderers, drug and arms traffickers and, now, home invaders, have appeared to hold the upper hand.
A force of 300 police and soldiers locked down parts of Duncan, George and Nelson Streets. The exercise facilitated house-to-house searches for guns, ammunition, drugs and related suspects.
By the end of the exercise, 90 alleged wrongdoers had been arrested. That the yield of guns and drugs turned out, however, less impressive may reflect the quality of intelligence that guided this search-and-seizure manoeuvre.
After last week’s multiple murders, the law enforcement forces had to do something. Speaking for that something, Asst Commissioner Glen Hackett described his mission: “We are here to bring a level of confidence to the law-abiding citizens that the police is willing to act on their behalf, where they are perceived to in jeopardy with respect to lawlessness.”
The “level of confidence” is necessarily undermined, however, by ACP Hackett’s disappointing admission that his forces lacked capacity to go the full distance. For an exercise as important politically and otherwise as this one, the police, though drawing upon the Defence Force, still lacked adequate “resources”.
Herein lies the wake-up-call reminder about what is realistically possible in T&T crime interdiction and suppression. Despite the growing expenditures on law enforcement, “resources”—human, but also material and technological—fall painfully short of what is needed.
Such “resources” must indeed be assessed in terms both of quantity and quality. Little or nothing shows for the investment, both by the now-defunct SAUTT, and by successor units, in deriving actionable intelligence about gangs.
Not having been busted while SAUTT, with its costly and eye-catching resources, was in operation, the gangs have survived to threaten life and depress livability in east Port of Spain and elsewhere. The People’s Partnership administration, with opposition backing, had passed legislation to facilitate the crackdown on gangs.
As given effect during the 2011 state of emergency, however, such legislation turned out far from equal to the task of effectively attacking gangsterism. The Director of Public Prosecutions proved at the time to be the weak link in any chain of credible gang suppression.
Another large round-up has now taken place of criminal suspects in east Port of Spain. The DPP had better be onside this time around. Otherwise, the best efforts of ACP Hackett will have availed nothing more than to confirm that the police, though alive and well, remain as helplessly ineffective as before.