Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Are we serious about fighting crime?

Bringing crime under control in T&T is as elusive as the proverbial pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Governments, national security ministers and police commissioners have changed over the years with no significant effect on crime, especially murders. 

Arising out of a spike in murders over the last three weeks, the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader finally met and agreed on certain initiatives to address the problem. 

In addition, the PM installed Gary Griffith as the new National Security Minister, that being the highlight of the ministerial reshuffle. These events play out like a recurring decimal – desperate reactions to appease the public when murders skyrocket. 

The leaders/politicians of this land are educated and must know the requirements to effectively address the crime dilemma. So why are only feeble attempts made to contain crime rates and restore law and order? 

Are our leaders serious about fighting crime or more interested in nepotism, cronyism, serving themselves and “mudslinging” their opponents? 

Note that the PM’s most recent appeal to the Opposition to work together was rejected by Dr Rowley – another indication that the love for power trumps addressing the needs of the people. We can be sure that his prior pronouncement on working with the Government to control crime was a mere farce.  

The authorities know that guns, ammunition and drugs literally flood certain coastal areas. So a few marine vessels and helicopters were purchased some time ago to show the public that something is being done to eradicate, if not, curtail this illegal influx via our shores. 

With T&T’s coastline length being 362 km or 225 miles and with the continuation of murders via shootings the public is aware that not nearly enough is being done to arrest the thriving illegal importation of guns and ammunition. 

The death penalty is cited as a deterrent for murder, yet the Government and Opposition continue to play “footsie” with the issue, as the label “Death Row” is a joke. Prisoners sent there generally have their death sentences commuted to life imprisonment. 

This lack of enforcement indicates to criminals and would-be murderers that the law is not to be feared – it’s a joke.

Apart from the lack of law enforcement, high crime rates are aided by insufficient law enforcers. But although a significant number of citizens apply to the Police Service, only a fraction appear to meet the required standards. So when crime spikes the army is called out to assist. It is obvious that a more permanent solution must be employed. 

Has serious consideration been given to making the job of a police officer more attractive, or at least attractive enough to woo more suitable applicants?  

In the area of crime prevention, the Government’s basketball tournament among specific communities was a good incentive that needs to be maintained and even broadened. 

More tournaments will create more sporting goals and less time for idleness and crime. Part of our problem is the lack of support for ideas/plans that work.

If the authorities are serious about fighting crime, prisoners not consigned to Death Row must be afforded more rehabilitative incentives to curb recidivism. 

A serious approach to fighting crime must also include a speedy process for court matters and related sentencing, disbursements, etc. This plan must also ensure fairness to all people regardless of social status, race, skin colour, sexual orientation and political persuasion. 

We, the average citizens, must play our critical role too, as many of us flaunt the law at every opportunity. Driving with a cellphone at our ears and running red traffic lights are examples. Still, there is a perception that many folks would provide more information on crime to the police when a certain level of trust is restored. It appears that more co-operation from the public is dependent, to some extent, on the rooting out of rogue law enforcers from the system.

Every sensible Trinbagonian knows the effective measures that, if implemented, can make citizens feel safe again. But are we really serious in pursing those?

Dexter Rigsby

Mt Lambert