A war will be waged against crime, with a wide range of initiatives from the top to the ground, which include finding a new method of selecting a commissioner of police (CoP) to deploying more law-enforcement manpower on the roads.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday announced a number of crime-fighting measures, following close to three hours of talks with Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley and his team.
The meeting at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s started at around 3.30 p.m. and ended just before 6 p.m.
Persad-Bissessar led the Government team of Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, Justice Minister Christlyn Moore, National Diversity Minister Clifton DeCoteau and Legal Affairs Minister Prakash Ramadhar while Rowley was accompanied by Opposition senators Fitzgerald Hinds and Terrence Deyalsingh, and Port of Spain South MP Marlene Mc Donald.
The Prime Minister, in a news conference following the meeting, said talks with the Opposition was no “gimmick” and both sides were committed to working together on all fronts to ensure a collaborative and successful approach in the crime fight.
“I am committed to working with the Oppostion...to fight what I see as a war, and this war is on crime and criminals,” said Persad-Bissessar.
Among the initiatives discussed between the Government and Opposition was the strengthening of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) and the need to devise a new system for the appointment of a commissioner of police.
As it stands now, the Police Service Commission (PSC) appoints the CoP based on a system that was introduced under the former People’s National Movement (PNM) administration.
Teams from the Government and the Opposition will meet again next week to continue discussions on areas raised at yesterday’s meeting (See box at right).
While the Prime Minister spoke of measures her Government and the Opposition will work on, she announced immediate measures that will be implemented in the crime fight.
This includes the establishment of a rapid-response unit.
Persad-Bissessar said Government has given Acting CoP Stephen Williams approval to form a rapid-response unit (RRU) and to purchase 300 new vehicles for the Police Service.
This unit, she said, will consist of response teams and will be equipped with advanced technological devices to improve police response times to crimes that are in progress.
In addition, Persad-Bissessar said officers will be on patrol throughout the length and breadth of the country.
She said the teams initially will be focused on the most crime-prone areas, and it was expected the unit will be fully operational before the end of the year.
The Prime Minister said special reserve police (SRPs) will undergo specialised training. She said training has already started last June, and the first batch of officers is expected to graduate next month.
While there will be more manpower on the roads, there will also be more eyes on the nation as Persad-Bissessar said the CCTV (closed-circuit television) programme will be expanded from November.
She said as at this month, 873 cameras were installed in areas, including Beetham Estate, Laventille and Tobago.
Proposals are being sent out for central, southern and western areas.
There is a note, she said, currently before Cabinet for the Amendment to the Customs Act and VAT Act to remove duties and taxes on the purchase of CCTV cameras.
Another crime-fighting initiative is the creation of the Citizen Security Programme (CSP), which is sponsored by the Inter-American Development Bank and falls under the portfolio of the Ministry of National Security.
Persad-Bissessar said the CSP, which utilises community action as its primary strategy, has been operating in 22 specifically identified communities since 2008.
She said Cabinet approval has now been given to extend this programme into communities in East Port of Spain.
Persad-Bissessar said social intervention will also be taken, and Cabinet was currently considering a proposal from the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development to increase access to psychosocial counselling and support services for vulnerable children and adolescents in remote and depressed areas.
She said plans are also in train to strengthen the capacity of the National Family Services Division of the ministry to better provide and respond to the needs of children and families in all communities.
Persad-Bissessar added also that under consideration by Cabinet is the “Gatekeepers” project, which seeks to take a community-based preventative and rehabilitative approach to address the problem of criminality among young males.
Issues raised between
Opposition in crime talks
• Strengthening of the TTPS
• The need to devise a new system for the appointment of the Commissioner of Police
• Morale in the Police Service
• Filling of vacancies and a comprehensive review of promotions in the Service.
• Bolstering of the Municipal Police
• Explore ways to strengthen witness protection
• Create a specific offence for witness tampering/intimidation
• Immediate manpower audit of TTPS
• Creation of a criminal offence to deal with illegal home invasions
• Recognise that urban renewal could be part of the solution
• Capital Offences and Anti-Gang
• The need for a Parliamentary Standing Committee on crime suppression and security was discussed (PM will seek further advice on this)
• Implementing the recommendations of the Ryan Report
• On Bail Act, will consider denying bail if you are a convicted criminal i.e. after conviction on a first offence you are charged a second time, you will be denied bail
• Partial abolition of jury trial for gun or drug offence