National Security Minister Jack Warner appeared to have painted himself into a corner yesterday, saying he had a change of heart about placing a gag on the police with respect to releasing crime statistics. Warner spoke with reporters after a function at the Diplomatic Centre and confirmed it minutes later at the weekly post-Cabinet news conference at the same venue in St Ann’s.
He admitted that his intention was “to instruct the police along those lines and between then and when I met the police I decided, of course, to have a change of heart.” Asked why, Warner replied: “I don’t even know why I should say why I have had a change of heart. Come on, guys, there is a limit as to how far you could go. I must tell you why I have had a change of heart?”
Warner later said he did not discuss the matter with the police because he knew where his boundaries are. Asked if he no longer had any intention of instructing the police to stop making murder statistics public, Warner said: “My intention is no longer there.”
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He said the matter was not discussed in Cabinet, as there were more important issues to deal with and maintained his position that the release of crime statistics in the media contributed to the escalation of crime. “I stand by that and I make the point that when we sensationalise (crime) by mainly the Opposition, that it does not help reducing crime. I could be wrong, I am not infallible, but that is my view,” he said.
Warner sought to clarify what he said initially. “I said that my release of statistics on a daily basis in particular hot spots does not help the situation,” he said. For the past three weeks, Warner had given daily updates on the murder rate in Laventille. He started doing this after nine days without murders in Laventille. But after 22 consecutive days, a murder occurred.
He said he would no longer say how many days and nights there has been no murder in any community. “That, I am saying, on reflection, does not help, because there might be some young man out there that would want to prove me wrong. And that’s all I said. And this big hullabaloo in the country.” “I don’t subscribe to the fact that I should go and say every day, in hot spots, how many murder-free days you have. I don’t, in reflection, think that helps.”
Warner also slammed a television station for its claim that there were more murders for the first ten months of this year than last year, saying the station should recognise that a state of emergency was in effect for some months last year, and as a direct consequence the murder rate would be lower. Asked if he was admitting that it was the state of emergency that reduced the murder toll last year, he said, “That was a given.”
He said the station should indicate that there was a state of emergency in the country for three months last year and that made the difference. Warner said the current crime initiatives were working very well and the National Security Council had approved his new crime plan. Initially he said details of the plan would remain secret. “I have no intention of telling the public what the crime plan is, but it was approved after a lengthy, lengthy, lengthy meeting last week Thursday,” he said.
He later said the roll-out of the plan had already started and components included: • Opening of surveillance bays • A rebranded Highway Patrol Unit • More Special Reserve police “I will not announce these plans...I am saying you will see them come there and they will just happen, and we hope you will see the results as well,” he said.