The murder rate has to come down, National Security Minister Jack Warner pledged yesterday.
"Crime has been down in a sense, but murders are up. And in this country crime is judged by the number of murders. You could do what you want—bring down assault and battery, robbery —but if murders go up, that is the yardstick by which people judge you," he told reporters, shortly after yesterday's swearing-in ceremony yesterday at Knowsley building, Queen's Park West, Port of Spain.
Warner said the country was facing "urban warfare" and it had to be brought under control. "Urban warfare must be met frontally," he said.
"We can't run. We must take this country back, street by street, corner by corner. And you would see me on the block as you have never seen me before. If you thought you saw me digging roads and bridges (as Works Minister), you would see me (now) more often than that. And sooner rather than later," he said.
He said his general aim was to reduce crime and make police more visible on the roads—"to have police officers, army and fire officers if you have to, in the hot spots, almost round the clock, to have helicopters with lights to see where people are going".
He promised to give the security forces the tools to perform.
"But by Christ, I would hold all of them accountable after that," he said.
Warner reiterated his "total opposition" to 21st Century Policing, a pet project of the current Commissioner of Police, Dwayne Gibbs, saying one had to first address 20th century policing.
Was he butting heads with the Commissioner? "Sometimes you have to crush grapes to get wine. If I have to butt the head of the Police Commissioner to solve crime or get things done, so be it. His would not be the first head I clashed with and it wouldn't be the last," he said.
However, Warner said he believed Gibbs was a reasonable man. Saying they had the same objective, the Minister said he was certain that they could sit, talk, exchange ideas, agree and disagree without being disagreeable.
"I have no intention to going in the media and mauvais langue, terrorise and badtalk the Commissioner of Police," Warner emphasised.
Asked about his assessment of Gibbs performance, Warner said while he had reservations, he wanted to hold back any further comment because he wanted to go in and talk to Gibbs to find out why he has not performed better.
Warner also reiterated his desire for a "sanitised Flying Squad".
However, he defended the decision to restructure the Special Anti-Crime Unit of Trinidad and Tobago. He said he could not see why there could not be 5,000 SRP (Special Reserve Police officers) in the service or why fire officers, or MTS officers cannot join the fight against crime. He also wanted greater cooperation and exchange of intelligence among the security agencies.
Warner said he would be expecting a daily report on serious crimes, sometimes twice a day if necessary. He said the detection rate must go up. He also said all laws—including the small laws such as seatbelt laws and cellphone use while driving—must be enforced.
He will hold a meeting of all security heads at 2 p.m. today and he would be making it clear at this meeting that police can't investigate police, that a crime plan should be ready in two weeks and that there was no magic wand, since all hands had to be on deck.
Lastly, Warner said there was no reason for anyone to fear that international (security) agencies might have a problem dealing with him.
Responding to questions on whether his previous football activities, might affect the ability of the country to have good relations with international security agencies, particularly from the United States and Britain, he said: "Is FIFA a country? FIFA's business is FIFA's business...I was there for 29 years and not one of them could point a finger at me. I have no FIFA account, no private banking. I (merely) tried to move a president from office who I thought had overstayed his time...See me for what I am. My life is a legacy of success."