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Despite promises from minister, T&T drowning in blood
Since last weekend, there have been at least 14 murders and the body count keeps increasing. This is frighteningly similar to the scenario that preceded the declaration of a state of emergency in August 2011, when there were 11 murders in a four-day period.
Murder statistics over the last few years show the magnitude of the problem of violence and bloodshed in this country. There were 379 murders last year, 354 in 2011, 480 in 2010, 508 in 2009, 550 in 2008—a record high—and 391 in 2007.
During the 2011 SoE, which lasted from August 21 to December 5, the murder rate was greatly reduced, contributing to the low number of murders for that year. But overall there are no indications that the situation will improve any time soon.
Since coming to office almost three years ago, the Kamla Persad-Bissessar administration has made numerous promises and delivered several piecemeal anti-crime initiatives, including legislative reform, social programmes and enhanced security operations, such as the now abandoned 21st-century policing and the Colour Me Orange programme. None has achieved any measurable level of success.
When he was handed the national security portfolio in January last year, Jack Warner promised to crack down on crime and return T&T to a level of normality within six months.
He also promised police enforcement zones, increased highway patrols on weekends and enforcement of all the country’s laws.
However, the few things that have been done have not yielded any improvements and the minister’s promise of a comprehensive crime plan has failed to materialise, more than a year into his tenure. There have only been bits and pieces announced, with some initiatives abandoned soon after they got started, including last year’s highly publicised People and Projects for Progress, a job scheme in east Port-of-Spain managed by the Defence Force, which quickly became embroiled in controversy.
Some months ago, Warner said his new crime plan would include guidelines dictating how people dress in public and other social measures to curb indiscipline among young people.
Last month he announced plans to set up five army bases around T&T and grant powers of arrest to 1,000 precepted soldiers. The latter proposal drew an immediate outcry from the business sector and NGOs, who expressed concern about the need to regulate the conduct of soldiers.
In recent days, the anti-crime measures from the minister have included an invitation to former New York police chief Bill Bratton, known as a champion of the zero-tolerance approach, to lecture local police, as well as talk of seeking support from law-enforcement officials from Colombia. We have heard quite a lot from Mr Warner on crime in the past year then, but he has not been able to assure the public that he can bring the situation under control. To date, there are no signs from the outspoken minister of an organised approach to the problem.
And all the while, the killings continue unabated.
What is long overdue and urgently needed is a clear, large-scale, carefully though out plan to deal with crime which continues to spiral out of control. Hopefully, Mr Warner will deliver that in quick time to a nation overwhelmed by the constant bloodshed.
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