National Security Minister Jack Warner yesterday placed an information blackout on all crime reports coming out of police stations, "with immediate effect".
After an early-morning murder ended the 30-day cease-fire in Laventille, Warner said as an interim measure he would be implementing the blackout on all criminal activity.
"With immediate effect, I have decided that no figures of any kind would be given anywhere for any absence of murders," Warner said to reporters yesterday during the lunch break of the budget debate at Parliament, Tower D, International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain.
Yesterday, 28-year-old St Ann's resident Stephon Morris was leaving his girlfriend's home at Eastern Quarry, Laventille, at 3.45 a.m., when he was shot and killed by two men. Warner said police recovered 29 spent shells on the scene and the men escaped.
Warner said a lack of information could trigger a reduction in the crime rate.
At various public events over the past month, Warner had kept an almost daily tally of the crime-free days in Laventille, but now said he would be stopping the police from revealing the crime figures to the media as an interim measure to curb crime.
He said it was his "feeling" that if the media stopped publishing the crime figures, it could lead to a reduction in the crime rate.
"People are being encouraged when they see no crime in an area. They want to make news, they want to make headlines that want to spoil the record and they get an incentive to do this," he said.
"Reports would now be given quarterly as necessary and not daily as the case may be. I have also instructed the police not to reveal any figures or murders anywhere, anytime, and this was done to take away from the Opposition the desire to create mischief where none existed," he said.
Warner said he would meet with the relevant police superiors to ensure the mandate is set.
"I came here and gave murder figures for one month and you know something, 24 hours later a guy is dead. In some ways I feel guilty, because as I had gone there (Laventille), some people felt I was boasting," he said.
Warner also laid the responsibility for this latest murder at the door of the Opposition People's National Movement (PNM), saying the party "sponsored" it.
"This could have been avoided if the PNM was not sponsoring crime, you can quote me liberally. I am saying that, of course, unequivocally, that it is a PNM murder, quote me on that. Without the PNM, this murder would not have happened," he said.
"Worse yet, it's a pity that in their very own constituencies, that they are the ones that are sponsoring crime and encouraging mayhem and murder, and I say that unabated and without fear and I am telling the national community that as long as this continues that the PNM would be on one side and that side is crime, mayhem and murder; and the Government on the other side with law and order," he said.
Warner said this latest killing has "personally hurt" him, and accused the Opposition of praying for a murder in its own constituency to score political points.
"Opposition should be very glad that their prayers have been answered. I want to say that possibly they have gotten their wish," he said.
"This has hurt me. This young man should not have died this morning. People in Laventille were walking the streets once again, they were embracing each other. This is to prove the Government wrong, to prove Jack Warner wrong and, at the end of the day, that cannot make sense," he said.
He said if the PNM had gotten on board with the Government's crime plan and not played politics, this murder could have been avoided.
"I am saying that this murder could have been avoided if the PNM was not trying to glamorise murder and mayhem in their own constituency," he said.
Warner said the PNM believes a rising crime rate will get it back into power. "...That wouldn't help them. Crime could go up till I don't know how high, the PNM will never see government again in our collective lifetime, and I don't see how sponsoring crime would help them, but they believe that," he said.
Acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams, who was contacted last night by TV6 News, declined comment on Warner's directive, but did say the Minister could only give policy directives, not operational ones.