Tuesday, January 16, 2018

‘Protect children from gangs’

This country is greatly lacking in its mechanisms to protect children from the risks of gangs and gang violence professor in the Department of Justice, Law & Criminology at American University, Washington DC, Ed Maguire has said.

 Maguire who led a large scale research project in Trinidad and Tobago from 2004 to 2010  focusing on gangs, violence and the capacity of the nation’s government to address these issues was at the time speaking via video message at the recent Dana Saroop Seetahal Symposium: Re-engineering the Criminal Justice System at the UWI, St Augustine, when he made the statement.

“During our time in Trinidad and Tobago my team and I carried out a number of different studies on crime, violence and policing, one of the things that we found is that there was a significant lack of protective mechanisms to offset the risk factors that kids face in Trinidad and Tobago,” he said. 

Maguire said a framework that focuses on three things: prevention, intervention and suppression needs to be used in addressing the problem in this country.

“Prevention efforts are those that seek to keep kids out of gangs or away from crime in the first place, intervention efforts are those that focus on kids that are already in gangs trying to get them either to leave the gang or to reduce the severity of the behaviour. 

“Suppression efforts involve the use of the criminal justice system including police, courts, prosecution, incarceration and so forth to try to reduce gang related offenders,” he said.

Linking the framework to the issue of addressing gang violence Maguire asked, 

“In the area of prevention does the nation have in place appropriate mechanisms to protect kids from the various factors that they are facing and to help make them more resilient in the face of these risks so that they don’t join gangs or commit crime in the  first place? With regard to intervention: does the nation have appropriate mechanisms to help pull kids away from gangs or to help them reduce the severity of their behaviour while they are in gangs, so that they are not committing acts of violence? And with regards to suppression: does the nation have in place all the appropriate agreements and partnerships necessary to ensure that the  crime lab is working effectively with the police that the police are working effectively with prosecutors? Also that we can ensure that we can identify, arrest, prosecute and imprison the nation’s most serious repeat offenders who are responsible for committing multiple acts of violence?”

During his presentation Maguire also noted that the 2004-2010 research also found that drugs was not the main cause of most homicides in this country but guns were the real problem behind the violence.

“One of the things I hear regularly is the view that people kill each other in Trinidad and Tobago because of drugs. One of the studies that my colleagues and I carried out involved analysing hundreds of homicides and what we found is that in the vast majority of the homicides drugs had nothing to do with them.”