call for support: Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal, right, during his contribution at yesterday's sitting of the Lower House at Tower D, International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain. Seated to his right, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar speaks to National Security Minister Jack Warner. —Photo: ISHMAEL SALANDY

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'Murders spike in 2013 but drop in serious offences'

THERE was a "spike" in murders for the first two months of this year compared to last year but a decrease in serious offences, reported Leader of Government Business in the House Dr Roodal Moonilal

He was contributing to debate yesterday on the Defence (Amendment) Bill at Tower D, International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain.

Quoting from recent statistics from the Police Service, Moonilal noted there was a decrease in serious offences for the period January to February 2012, compared to January to February 2013, of 26 per cent.

He said there was a 22 per cent decrease in robbery, 34 per cent drop in breaking and burglary, 35 per cent drop in fraud offences, 23 per cent fall in general larceny and a 38 per cent drop in narcotic offences.

Moonilal noted Government was not happy with the 26 per cent fall because the homicide rate "is not acceptable", and there was an increase for the same period from 67 to 83 murders.

He said the Police Service was now focusing on homicides and also taking a new approach to crime data of monitoring daily, weekly and monthly, and not just at the end of the year, to get the extra effort in dealing with criminal elements.

Moonilal noted the Bill, which seeks to grant soldiers police powers, was part of a multipronged approach to crime which included police training, construction of eight new police stations and providing police with vehicles and equipment.

He pointed out the Opposition and others condemn the Government when there is a spike in crime but when they take action, they are condemned again.

"What do you want? You want us to leave here, so you could come and destroy the country," he told the Opposition bench.

Moonilal questioned whether the Opposition wanted the Government to "play dolly house" with the criminals. He said in three years, the Opposition had not brought one policy measure to deal with crime, only old measures like the Special Anti-Crime Unit of Trinidad and Tobago (SAUTT) and the "blimp".

He noted while the Opposition implied that Government or police are targeting certain areas and discriminating against constituents, he pointed out for the period February 2013, the Northern and Port of Spain divisions accounted for 24 out of 46 homicides, or about five out of ten.

However, when police and soldiers implemented strategies in these areas, they are condemned for "heavy action", "brutality", "lockdown" and infringing of rights.

He stressed that by controlling crime in these areas, there will be a significant decrease in the overall crime rate, and the protective services must be supported when they target these divisions.

At the start of the sitting, House Speaker Wade Mark expressed condolences on behalf of the Parliament to the family of late former independent senator Prof John Spence.

—Julien Neaves

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