Stop playing dolly house with crime
Recently there was open gang warfare on Duncan Street, Port of Spain, causing the Prime Minister to visit the area with a number of her Cabinet colleagues.
There seems to be an upsurge in gang warfare in the East-West Corridor. However, as a child, and most boy children in my days, we played a game of “cowboys and Indians”, where you would imagine you as a cowboy were killing out tribal Indians. That was just a game based on what we saw in the movies, with no motive attached.
In Trinidad, we continue to make the mistake of comparing ourselves to developed countries but, in making that comparison, we tend to forget Trinidadians are unique. A Trinidadian will invent and re-invent anything of a criminal nature, devise methods to circumvent any law which may be applied successfully in the developed countries.
With respect to the anti-gang legislation, the Attorney General is on record as saying the legislation “was not enacted to prosecute criminals, it was aimed at psychologically breaking gangs and adversely affecting their recruitment of new members”.
He also told reporters (August 23, 2012, first anniversary of the state of emergency) “the anti-gang legislation worldwide, unless there was a riot as happened in the United Kingdom, is very infrequently used for prosecutions and convictions. What it is however used for is to psychologically break the gangs and to break the recruitment of gang members”.
Has this approach been successful in Trinidad? Why has there been an upsurge in open gang warfare, and an increase in recruitment to the extent that one gang leader can boast he has 600 members (soldiers) in his gang?
It appears to me that we are playing “dolly house” with crime. We continue to glorify gang leaders and their members by meeting and treating with them and offering lucrative contracts. Becoming a gang leader is an attractive proposition for a young man. He can meet with the Prime Minister and her Cabinet, he can benefit from Government contracts while he continues with his merry business of trafficking and gang warfare.
The money from the contracts serves as capital investment for his alternative business. No wonder people in East Port of Spain are refusing $69 a day, while in other parts of the country folks are making do with that sum.
The kid glove approach has not worked. It is time for the Prime Minister to once again remove her “velvet gloves” and fight fire with much more fire when it is necessary. Stop giving handouts and introduce self-sustaining work programmes. Those who prefer to be on the straight and narrow should be supported.
In the meantime, the Attorney General’s use of the anti-gang legislation as a “booboo man” to frighten the gang leaders makes a mockery of law enforcement and we still sit and wonder why the crime rate is so high.