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Williams chides public for ‘perception’ of crime rate
Acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams hit the nail on the head by saying that it was “a mere perception” that crime was spiralling out of control, says president of the Police Service Social and Welfare Association Sgt Anand Ramesar. Ramesar was commenting on Williams’ first speech in his new post made last Friday in which the new top cop said the crime statistics of this year were no different from last year. Williams was speaking at a forum hosted by the Greater Tunapuna Chamber of Industry and Commerce, titled “Tackling the Crime Scourge” at the Centre of Excellence in Macoya. Williams, however, said statements that crime had risen were being promoted via social and traditional media. “The year 2012 is not worse than 2011. In future, I hope statements like ‘spiralling out of control’ will not be made,” Williams had said.
But the acting top cop’s statements are contradictory to those made by National Security Minister Jack Warner in June at the Brian Lara Promenade in Port-of-Spain. Warner, who spoke at the launch of a Police Caravan said, “All police officers must behave in a way where they can regain the public’s trust once more. They must help to bring back the country from fear.” At a breakfast meeting hosted by the T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce in July senior vice-president Moonilal Lalchan described the detection rate as “abysmally low.” “Less than a year has passed since the State of Emergency ended, and while we supported the SoE at the time to allow for the simultaneous development of a holistic crime plan, we are now seeing a clear return to gang warfare and serious crime. The current situation cannot be allowed to continue,” Lalchan had said. Ramesar also urged Williams to prove the public wrong that crime was out of control.“I think what the acting Commissioner of Police needs to realise as one of the challenges is to ensure perception is in accordance with reality. If there remains the perception that crime is high regardless of what the police are doing, then we are not removing that fear and that is where the focus needs to be,” Ramesar added.
He said there must be a “measured” determination by way of conducting a poll to determine how serious was the fear factor by members of the public. Senior political scientist Dr Bishnu Ragoonath said as long as Williams provided data which were presumably accurate, then the public had to accept what he said. “Perception near equates reality. If people believe crime is spiralling out of control that is a critical factor to consider when the police are using data to prove that perception is incorrect,” Ragoonath added. He said Williams’ statement has also suggested former Police Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs and deputy Police Commissioner Jack Ewatski have not been able to significantly turn around the crime challenge. “To many of the citizens it would have said that two police officers who were brought in were paid five times that of a local police commissioner and they were not able to turn around the situation significantly within the last two years,” Ramesar said.
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