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PM calls out joint patrols (with CNC3 video)
A significant increase in police and army officers was expected on the streets throughout the country last night, as the Government moved to reassure citizens in the wake of the spiralling murder rate. In announcing this yesterday, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said she was advised that while serious crime was down, the murder rate was spiking.
There have been 70 murders in the first 52 days of this year, with 13 of those victims being killed between last week Friday and yesterday. Persad-Bissessar, who returned from a Caricom inter-sessional heads of government meeting in Haiti on Thursday night, yesterday summoned the heads of the protective services for a 45-minute meeting to formulate immediate measures to deal with the crime problem.
Among those who attended the meeting, held at the Parliament building, were National Security Minister Jack Warner, Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal, acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams, Deputy Commissioner Mervyn Richardson and Chief of Defence Staff Major Gen Kenrick Maharaj.
“There seems to be a spike in murders,” Persad-Bissessar told reporters during a news briefing at the same venue afterwards. “We have agreed, as of today (yesterday), we will increase the visibility of joint army/police foot and mobile patrols, air patrols and roadblocks.”
The PM said the measure is intended “to bring a sense of comfort to our citizenry” and will be implemented throughout the country. The Prime Minister did not identify the streets or areas to be patrolled by larger numbers of police and soldiers, but sources say they will be in the two cities and major crime hot spots, including Laventille.
“We hope that with the increased visibility (of police and army) we can bring a sense of comfort to our citizenry, that there are more personnel out there looking after their interest,” Persad-Bissessar said. She said additionally, the heads of the protective services had suggested that legislation should be amended to make the possession of firearms a non-bailable offence.
The PM said people charged with being in possession of certain quantities of illegal drugs would also not be given bail. Consideration is also being given to changing the provision for discretionary sentencing for arms and drug offences to mandatory sentencing, the PM said. “Those proposals were put forward by the joint team here and we will certainly look at them again at the National Security Council next week,” she added.
Persad-Bissessar said the objective was “to bring quickly to the Parliament the necessary legislation,” and making the required amendments should be relatively simple. Speaking with reporters on Thursday night, Persad-Bissessar also said despite the spiralling murders and continuing crime problem, no consideration had been given to imposing another state of emergency.
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