Thursday, February 22, 2018

Welcome progress in anti-gang action

Express editorial logo327

Mark Fraser

 Hopes rise for the success of a rare breakthrough by police and prosecutors, who last week arraigned four persons for charges under the Anti-Gang Act. One of the accused was alleged to be a gang leader. Charges included conspiracy to murder, attempted murder, coercion to join a gang, and assisting and supporting gang activity. 

The legislation, under which those four alleged gangsters were hauled before the court, had earned a bad name after mass arrests under the 2011 State of Emergency quickly turned into a massive fiasco. That infamous outcome was widely discouraging when, of the more than 200 arrested, all but one, on orders of the DPP, walked free. 

That one was later to be singularly found guilty of being a gang member, and jailed. Still, the unsatisfactory implication was that the underworld cohorts of that luckless gangster have been left untouched to pursue their criminal aims.

Mystery murders, mounting since late 2011, soared into new orbit by early 2014. It has taken long for law enforcers convincingly to raise their game enough to bring alleged gangsters to court. It is also heartening that they evidently have not given up trying. 

Drive-by killings, and other assassinations so perpetrated as pointedly to send messages, representing a proportion of the murders daily being counted, are routinely classed by police as gang-related. Action, enabled by legislation, to suppress gangsterism must thus be regarded as instrumental in addressing the critical crime indicator of these times: murders most foul.

As a US government report has lately observed, legislation in various areas is still needed to give an edge to police and prosecutors battling a criminal insurgency that is motivated by actual enjoyment of impunity. Killers and other lawbreakers remain undetected and, when arrested, stand good chances of staying unpunished. 

Toward making effective use of anti-gang legislation the police must scrupulously adhere to rules set for the handling of prisoners, such as assuring access to lawyers and, when necessary, to prescribed medications. It would be self-defeating to law enforcement authorities, and heavily disappointing to the T&T public, if legislated ways and means for crime fighting would once again prove unequal to the task.