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Damn lies and statistics
Vision and/or charisma is not enough to sustain large-system change. While a necessary condition in the management of discontinuous change, we must build a model that goes beyond the inspired individual; we must build a model that takes into account the complexities of system-wide change in large, diverse, geographically complex organisations. Beyond the Charismatic Leader: Leader and Organizational Change: David A Nadler Michael L Tushman
As noted in this column of November 11: “But for all the wildness and idiosyncratic excesses, quietly the murder rate has begun to inch downwards. And for as long as it lasts we should thank (National Security Minister Jack) Warner and give him the credit.”
Actually the murder rate, and the crime rate generally has been quietly inching downwards since 2009. Following its peak at 547 in 2008, it fell to 507 the following year and to 473 in 2010. According to the figures released by the National Security Minister on New Year’s Day, the total number of murders committed for 2012 was 377.
Although the figures show an actual seven per cent increase in the murder rate for 2012, when compared to the artificial environment created by the 2011 State of Emergency, when 352 murders were recorded, there is no arguing that the murder rate is trending downwards, as are a number of serious crimes.
Over the years from the peak in 2008, we have had three national security ministers, Martin Joseph, John Sandy and Warner, as well as three commissioners in James Philbert, Dwayne Gibbs and Stephen Williams. But the most dramatic decline has taken place under Warner’s watch, and is no wonder that he has been attempting to take the full credit for what is a commendable reduction in the rate of serious crimes.
It would be churlish to argue that by comparing last year’s figures with the distorted murder statistics that arise from the SoE in 2011 that we are worse off. Last year’s figures represent a seven per cent increase over the previous year under the SoE. What is worrying, however, is that sexual offences have risen by 43 per cent, kidnappings (quite often related to sexual offences) by 47 and robbery by 17 per cent.
Warner has emerged and has positioned himself as what the management literature calls a “charismatic leader” who followers believe has superhuman qualities. Although the evidence suggests that the definition of the “pseudo-charismatic” leader who achieves organisational transformation without paying attention to ethical considerations might also be apt.
As National Security Minister, Warner has skirted both the Constitution and the law in taking several initiatives which have directly contributed to enhanced police morale and, one assumes, has facilitated crime prevention.
The first was the effective termination of the Canadian Commissioner Gibbs and his deputy Jack Ewatski, and the appointment of a qualified local who had emerged as the top candidate following the original round of interviews in 2008, and who, more importantly, had the confidence of the local police.
He also engineered a settlement of the contentious industrial dispute between the Police Service Welfare Association and the Chief Personnel Officer that would have gained him considerable goodwill.
As National Security Minister, he focused attention on the areas of east Port-of-Spain where the gang warfare was a major contributor to the murder rate and his meeting with the gang leaders (however much disguised) has clearly produced results, unlike similar meetings held under the previous administration.
This is not to deny the role played by Martin Joseph, under whose tenure significant anti-crime legislation was passed and the technical resources available to the police were enhanced, although much of this was done under SAUTT, which became in itself a significant issue, said to have undermined the morale of the police.
It is simplistic to ascribe the crime situation and its attenuation to the fact that there was simply a change in government. The murder rate, as is the case now, had begun falling under the PNM administration from 1991 to 1994 with the capture of Dole Chadee, and fell to its lowest level under the UNC following his execution, with 93 murders in 1999.
But it began to rise again and by 2000 it was 118 and 153 the year after, even before the PNM came to power. By that time it had become apparent that the Chadee model of crime detection and swift punishment was a mere flash in the pan and would not be easily replicated.
The arrest, successful prosecution and execution of Chadee showed a state with the determination to put every resource to ensure the application of consequences, which, in the final analysis, is the only deterrent to criminal activity.
For all the basking in the falling crime rates, we are yet to see a concomitant rise in the detection and solution rates that would suggest the problem is over and that we are indeed safer. That would require a significant change in the organisational culture of the police and the radical transformation of the judiciary that we are yet to see.
We don’t need to look far to determine how to reduce crime; we did it in the 90s with a series of actions that led to the lowest murders rates in the country’s recent history. While it is tempting to believe that what seems like a present trend is sustainable, we cannot rest easy—since it might just be that the criminals are too busy getting paid to play basketball.
• Maxie Cuffie runs a media consultancy, Integrated Media Company Ltd, is an economics graduate of the UWI and holds an MPA from the Harvard Kennedy School as a Mason Fellow in Public Policy and Management.
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