A crackdown on illegal guns coming in through the "porous borders" around Trinidad and Tobago is high on the policing agenda.
That was the promise by acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams yesterday, when he addressed the members of the American Chamber of Commerce at its monthly meeting at the Hilton Trinidad, St Ann's.
He said guns were also coming in through illegal points of entry along the country's coastlines. "The entire border is very porous and unsecured," he said.
"It is critical that we target getting guns out of the hands of the criminals. The firearm is the weapon of choice used in close to 80 per cent of the murders that take place in Trinidad and Tobago. We do not manufacture this weapon of choice in Trinidad and Tobago," he said.
Williams said from a policing perspective, the fight is to protect the borders of the twin islands.
"It is critical for us, in 2013, to work out ways and means of reducing the illegal entry of firearms in Trinidad and Tobago. Illegal entry is gained through our lawful ports of entry—that means the airport and the sea ports," he said.
"Unless we can effectively secure the borders of Trinidad and Tobago, we will continue to face this challenge," he said.
Despite admitting the borders of the islands were largely unprotected, Williams said the Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) became a political issue after the People's Partnership cancelled the former People's National Movement regime's multi-million-dollar contract with Britain-based BAE Systems.
"All the arguments which would have been out there in the public domain about OPVs—OPVs will not secure our porous borders. That has nothing to do with which political party took the decision to purchase OPVs and which political party took the decision to cancel the OPVs," he said.
"Because the OPVs will operate in distant waters and not the close area of our porous borders. What we need to do is find a mechanism to enhance our 360-degree radar coverage," he said, adding he would not reveal too much information on that issue.
Williams said the perception was that crime was high in the country, but that was not entirely true. He said violent crime was up, but crime in and of itself was down.
"Yet the perception in Trinidad and Tobago is that crime is out of control, and the perception that crime is out of control is heavily based on the issues around violent crime," he said.
Williams said there has been an increase in homicide rate since 1999, which has triggered a fear in society, which was also fed by the perception that police officers were "basically incompetent".
Williams said in the last four months, there have been 25 murders per month—which translates to a 29 per cent decrease on the eight-month average, which was significant.
He promised an increased in crime detection and police visibility on the streets and highways; and he said by the end of February, a final decision will be made on whether the police uniform would change or remain the same.