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Violent crime very high in T&T, says Williams
Acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams admitted yesterday that violent crime was “very high” and reducing that fear was a big challenge for the Police Service. And, he said, one of the goals of the police this year was to decrease serious crime, including murder by 23 per cent.
Williams was speaking at a breakfast meeting hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce, at the Hilton Trinidad and Conference Centre, Port-of-Spain. “A very contentious statement is that crime in T&T is comparatively very low.
“Unless we can impact violent crime in a significant way, especially on murders, we will be unable to get people to focus on the reality of the situation, which is, crime, generally being low in T&T...people will never see the low levels of crime unless we take their gaze away from violent crime. And to take their gaze away we must get rid of violent crime.”
He said, “No matter what you do, no matter what you say, no matter what numbers you put out, no matter what form of statistics you present, there is a perception that those numbers do not match up to the real thing in T&T. “So the perception, as some say, is the reality. It is the reality for me that even though the numbers are generally low with crime, the perception is that crime is high.”
Close on the heels of violent crime were road fatalities, as 191 road deaths were recorded last year, Williams added. But the police could only do so much, as the Government played a great role in reducing crime by making intelligent decisions to benefit the people, Williams said. What had “strangled” the Police Service over the years, he said, was a negative culture within the organisation.
“Officers must recognise that while they are entrusted with tremendous power and authority, they must be able to manage the power and authority to the best benefit of the citizens.” Williams said since 1999 there had been an increase in the homicide rate, which triggered a fear in the population and a lack of confidence in police.
Saying it was critical to get firearms out of the hands of criminals, Williams said a gun was the weapon of choice used by criminals in 80 per cent of murders. He said offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) were not the solution to ensure coastal areas were properly protected.
“OPVs would not secure our porous borders. It has nothing to do with which political party took the decision to purchase OPVs and which party took the decision to cancel the purchasing of OPVs.
“The OPVs will operate in distant waters of our porous borders. What we need to do is find a mechanism to enhance our 360-degree radar coverage, but also to enhance the capacity of the Coast Guard to secure the borders. Then we can properly address the problem of firearms and the criminals.”
What was also critical, he urged, was forging a positive relationship between the police and the public. Speaking on the tenets of effective policing, Williams said this entailed aggressive acquisition of resources, reconstituting of the Police Service, great execution of strategy and change in the negative culture of the Police Service.
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