COMFORTED: Police Corporal Phillip Phagoo consoles Rani Ramdeen outside the Cedros home where her parents, Krishna and Radha Ramdeen, were murdered yesterday. See Page 7. —Photo: DAVE PERSAD

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CRIME EMERGENCY

PM reads riot act to security heads; describes crime wave as horrific

By Ria Taitt Political Editor

No more excuses. Results now!

That was the no-nonsense message deli­vered by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to security chiefs. 

Not mincing her words, the Prime Minister said she would be monitoring the crime situation and holding all members of the National Security Council (NSC) “personally accountable” for any further escalation.

“I have made clear to each member of the NSC that they would be held personally accountable for any further failure to keep the peace and protect our citizens. And so once in charge, the respective arms of the respective security services, they must perform. No shades of grey, no excuses, no apologies. The Government and people of Trinidad and Tobago are demanding results now,” the Prime Minister declared following an emergency NSC meeting.

Persad-Bissessar was speaking at a news conference at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s. 

Flanked by acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams and Chief of Defence Staff Kenrick Maharaj, the Prime Minister stated further: “As Prime Minister and chairman of the NSC, we will no longer tolerate excuses for failure by our protective and security services to keep our country safe.” 

 The Prime Minister said she intended to take a deeper interest in the actions required to reverse the spike in murders, with 19 recorded in just seven days.

 “Having given these mandates and effectively removed any room for excuses, I will myself be very closely monitoring and actively following the progress made by each arm of the protective and security services,” she said.

Asked whether people would be fired if they fall short, Persad-Bissessar replied: “That is a matter for the law. Whatever action is to be taken would be done within the confines of the law.” 

The Prime Minister also announced special emphasis would be placed on the fight against domestic violence “so that all police stations would work in tandem with the Minis­try of the People and Social Development and the Ministry of Gender Affairs to provide safe houses for the victims of domestic violence”.

She said domestic violence reports would be given special consideration and if people need safe homes, the police would partner with the ministries to provide this.

Among the measures outlined by the Prime Minister to deal with crime were the suspension of leave in the Police Service; greater collaboration between Police Service and Defence Force; the police would keep an eye on people involved in crime and their activities and “lock down their operations”. 

“I have instructed all heads to operate at full capacity and operate based not on excuses for why something cannot be done, but with a clear plan of how all possible measures will be taken to secure the lives of our citizens,” she said. 

In answer to a question, the Prime Minister said she believed there should be a disaggregation of crime between crimes committed by criminals against each other, crimes committed by the criminal element against law-abiding citizens and crimes committed by one law-abiding citizen against another. “We might be better able to see how to combat them... and what law enforcement measures can be taken” in order to curtail each category of crime.

However, she stressed that in fighting crime, law enforcement should not concentrate its efforts on any one category over the other. She said serious crime was down by 28 per cent, but murders were up.

On the call by Minister Rodger Samuel for the implementation of the death penalty, the Prime Minister said until such time as the Opposition gives its support to legislation proposed by the Government on this issue, Government would not be able to implement the death penalty within the deadline mandated by the Pratt and Morgan judgment.

 She noted, too, there was division on the issue of whether the death penalty was effective as a crime deterrent.

Noting the recent escalation in crime had taken place despite increasing efforts in focusing resources, implementation, modifying equipment, new technology and police visibility, the Prime Minister said her questions to the NSC were very clear: why is this happening and what can we do to ensure it is stopped?

The Prime Minister said she would not allow an evil and violent minority to continue to inflict harm, fear and tragedy on the lives of the citizens.

• See Page 9

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