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Data reveal criminal infrastructure still intact
Sadly, there is no reason for the security forces, Minister of National Security Jack Warner and his ministry to feel satisfied with the results of the “war on crime” in 2012. The bald data released by the police, seemingly with the blessings of Mr Warner, show that compared to 2011, there have been significant increases in some categories of serious crime—murders, sexual offences and kidnappings—when compared to the figures of 2011.
When serious crimes—murder, wounding and shooting, sexual offences, breaking and burglary, robbery, fraud offences, kidnapping, narcotics, larceny, motor-vehicle theft and a few others—are aggregated into one group, the police data show an increase of such incidents in 2012 to 17,533 offences compared to the 15,877 of 2011.
Remembering that in 2011 the country was on a forced partial close-down for three months of the year, the figures above show that the marginal reprieve from criminality in that year, during the state of emergency and curfew, had little or no fundamental impact on the criminal infrastructure and the capture and imprisonment of hard-nosed criminals.
Rather than having long-term effects, it was merely a temporary slow-down because of the special powers given to the police. The criminals have long since re-started their activities in full. Last year, murders increased to 377 compared to 352 in 2011. Sexual offences reports climbed noticeably, to 1,020 compared to 709 in 2011.
There were increases too, in woundings and shootings, up to 568 compared to 535 in 2011. Kidnappings shot up to 180 in 2012 from 122 in the previous year. Robberies and the associated category of break-ins and burglaries escalated to 8,618 in 2012 from the 7,938 of 2011.
In fact, in the entire serious crimes category, only in the instances of fraud offences and in the illegal narcotics trade was there anything of a noteworthy decline. Conversely, in murders, woundings and shootings, sexual offences and kidnappings, breakings and robberies, crimes carried out with violence against the person, the news is bad: increases.
Of particular concern is the fact that with regard to sexual offences and kidnappings, the numbers in 2012 are the highest they have been for the last five years. All of this goes to show there is very little to celebrate with regard to the deeply worrying trend of entrenched and violent crime in T&T.
This is the reality of crime in T&T that the population lives with on a daily basis, regardless of the selective spin put on the interpretation of the figures by the police and the minister.
In fact, the actual numbers of crimes committed may be even higher: many people have lost faith in the police to the point where they do not even report incidents in which they are the victims, because they do not believe the police will take action, or because they are intimidated and do not believe the police will protect them against the perpetrators.
The data released do not give any information on how the police and criminal justice system fared with regard to apprehending those committing the crimes and the success or failure of the institution that has the responsibility to punish offenders.
This makes it impossible to judge whether the police have become or are becoming more effective and efficient in crime detection and the prosecution of criminal matters in the courts. Have police detection rates improved? Once a crime has been “detected”—ie, a culprit has been identified—how many of those cases reach the courts? And of those cases, how many end in convictions, with the culprit being put behind bars?
Other than the disappointing results, the other clear indication coming from the data is that the National Security Minister, notwithstanding his bustling, action-man public image, his many threats, boasts and assurances, has achieved little in the portfolio he picked up in mid-2012.
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