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Low crime-detection rate sullies TTPS
The main function of a police service is prevention and detection of crime, using various strategies to stop criminal activities, build positive relationships with the public and keep communities safe.
Police officers are supposed to catch serious offenders and ensure their conviction, so that others are discouraged from lives of crime or even venturing an infraction or two.
In all these areas, the T&T Police Service (TTPS) is an abysmal failure, as evidenced by its own statistics. A report in Monday’s T&T Guardian contains statistics from the TTPS’s Crime and Problem Analysis Branch (CAPA), which show that of the 91 murders committed for the year so far, only eight have been solved—a detection rate of less than 10 per cent.
Overall, the average detection rate of the TTPS has plummeted in recent years from a dismal 24 per cent to 14 per cent. The data looks even worse compared to rates in the UK, with a population of about 60 million people and a detection rate of close to 75 per cent and the US, with a population of 312 million and a detection rate of close to 72 per cent. Such a low detection rate means that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of violent criminals are escaping justice. No wonder so many citizens have lost faith in local law enforcement.
While it is true that there are no quick fixes for crime—long-term investment and effort are essential—imposing harsher laws will be of no effect if criminals continue to escape severe consequences for their illegal activities. The only solution is to work toward higher detection rates which will discourage the criminal lifestyles that too many in T&T continue to enjoy.
The effectiveness of a high crime detection rate was underscored in a study done last year by Civitas, a registered charity in the UK which carries out research and educational work to facilitate informed public debate on important issues.
According to that study, even a small increase in detection leads to substantial reductions in crime and plays a sustained role in preventing crime. It is therefore imperative that acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams and his executive in the TTPS begin urgent and immediate efforts to reverse their low crime-detection rate. While they’re at it, they should seriously consider the views of head of the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) Gillian Lucky who, in a recent newspaper column, identified two developments tied to the low detection rate—the dismantling of SAUTT and the de-commissioning of the blimp. SAUTT focused on best practices in investigations, using technology to detect and identify criminals and was taking law enforcement, especially in the area of crime detection, to the next level, Ms Lucky wrote.
However, the previous regime ignored calls to ensure the unit was operating within a legal framework and to promote its accomplishments, so the current Government wasted no time in dismantling it. In the case of the blimp, its achievements in the fight against crime are unknown to the wider public. Immediate action is needed. There will be severe economic, social and political consequences if T&T continues to be burdened with a weak, inefficient police service.
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