xACTING Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams said yesterday that the introduction of a State of Emergency (SoE) in the country last year was not linked to the murders of 11 people in the four days leading up to the start of the SoE on August 22.
In a telephone interview with the Express, Williams was asked if he thought the seven people killed over this past weekend was enough to implement another State of Emergency.
"The calling of the State of Emergency was not linked to there being 11 murders in a week (last year)", he said, adding that the killings and SoE were not a "cause and effect" scenario.
At 8 p.m. on August 21 last year Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar announced that a State of Emergency would begin as of midnight following 11 murders over a 72-hour period.
"The Prime Minister in presenting the rationale for the SoE placed it in a context and that context was placing all the present issues with crime," Williams said when asked if the 11 murders during the period August 18 to August 21, 2011 were used as a catalyst for the SoE.
Speaking about the SoE and gang violence plaguing the country, Williams said:
"The Police Service was unable to effectively address the issues around gangs during the SoE using the Anti Gang legislation. That's a fact because we have had no convictions of anyone in relation to gang activities but I will disagree with you to say that gang-related murders have been taken off from our consideration."
Williams said the police were still labelling and relating murders to gang activity, even though all of those arrested under the Anti Gang legislation, which came into effect one week prior to the SoE, were freed for lack of evidence. Williams said he would rather address the issue of violent crime as a whole rather than having it isolated to the relationship it had to last year's SoE.
"To address violent crime in Trinidad and Tobago as it exists today is for us as a society to value life. As a society we are confronted with a very small percentage of the population as active violent criminals. The majority of the citizens are law-abiding citizens," Williams said.
He said everyone had a role to play in the issue of reducing violent crime and it was critical for each person to contribute to addressing violent crime.
He said neighbourhood watch groups could assist in reducing the number of violent crimes.
"We really have to work together. Collaboration, coordination and partnership is what is critical in taking charge in the problem that is confronting us," Williams said.
Policing for people and protecting and serving with pride are not just nice words but a standard that each police officer should live by, Williams said, adding that it would take smart policing to impact both the enforcing and preventative sides of policing.