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Seetahal on low detection rate: Blame it on gang-related killings, organised crime
About 20 years ago, there were about 70-100 murders in T&T annually and a detection rate of close to 65 per cent. But with an increase in gang-related murders and organised crime, the detection rate has dropped significantly, Senior Counsel Dana Seetahal said yesterday. For the year to date there have been 91 murders and only eight were solved.
Seetahal, who has studied criminology, said: “If you compare the murders in 1999, most of those were domestic, and would have been committed by a family member or friend and for several reasons, one of which could be jealousy.” She said in such an instance the perpetrator would have been identified and in some cases could have claimed either self-defence or provocation. “But some of these murders would have also been robberies,” she added.
In the course of time, however, not only were there more incidences of organised crime, but also the proliferation of firearms has resulted in more gun-related crimes. “There were now more people who were either involved in gangs or were being killed due to their involvement in gangs, and this would have extended to the fight for turf, which would have also involved fighting for URP projects,” Seetahal said.
Killings therefore became more professional, and because of the nature of the murders, a higher degree of fear was generated and no one wanted to step forward to testify, she added. “If it is a killing as a result of a turf war, or if there was a revenge killing, eventually they are not going to give evidence in a case and the case would be dismissed and the response therefore would be, ‘Don’t bother to tell the police anything.’
“So if potential witnesses have been staying away, this would also contribute to a lower detection rate.” Any country faced with an increasingly low detection rate had a multi-faceted problem, said Dr Randy Seepersad, a criminologist at the University of the West Indies.
Agreeing with Seetahal that more and more witnesses were unwilling to come forward, Seepersad said his research had shown there was a high degree of hatred in certain communities, so much so, that instead of turning to the police, they willingly took matters into their own hands. Another issue which must be urgently addressed was the backlog of cases at the Forensic Science Centre, Federation Park in St James.
A report compiled by the Occupational Safety and Health Authority (Osha) last November said the existing design of the building was not in conformance with international guidelines or best practice of the OSH Act of 2004. Examples of this included the absence of a separate post-mortem examination area, no separate viewing room for families and relatives and the use of furniture and fittings not designed for use in a post-mortem room.
Seepersad said such problems had severe repercussions. “In the case of exhibits involving ballistics, this takes quite a number of months. Other exhibits take too long to be processed and in that period evidence could be lost or contaminated, and this contributes to a low detection rate,” Seepersad added.
Examining the Police Service, he said another factor would be an overwhelmed and demoralised organisation. “There has been no substantial wage increase in the Police Service within recent times, and this could affect the morale of the officers, because the resources are stretched so thinly they are struggling to keep up,” he said. “Fewer police officers would translate into a lower detection rate.”
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