Last update: 09-Dec-2013 11:04 am
Monday, December 09, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
You are here
Same Old, Same Old
Various voices weighed in yesterday on the anti-crime plan and initiatives announced by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, after she met with Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley and other members of the Opposition as they sought answers to the nation’s growing crime problem. However, the consensus of agreement seemed to be that the plans were a rehash of initiatives either offered or actually tried before and discontinued for various reasons.
Persad-Bissessar and Rowley met at the Office of the Prime Minister, St Clair, on Thursday, after which a series of initiatives was announced, among them a Rapid Response Unit, 300 new vehicles for the T&T Police Service, a new system for appointing the police commissioner and the strengthening of the Police Complaints Authority. Social and educational interventions geared specifically toward east Port-of-Spain area were also announced.
Yesterday, the business community responded to the crime initiatives with some scepticism. Their message was clear: the policing plans are nothing new and T&T requires a major rethink of how detective work is undertaken and how the Police Service manages the work done by its personnel. Gregory Aboud, president of the Downtown Owners and Merchants Association (Doma), told the T&T Guardian that Persad-Bissessar’s intentions were commendable but lacking in originality.
“We appreciate the concern the Prime Minister is exhibiting about the terrible state of affairs, particularly with respect to the murders,” he said. “We do, however, feel extremely apprehensive because these specific measures have been announced on several prior occasions.” Addressing the proposed expansion of the CCTV network, Aboud said “a tremendous number of cameras already exist,” implying that they had had no impact in reducing crime levels.
Of the announcement of a new fleet of police vehicles, he said: “The protective services are in control of a larger fleet of vehicles than at any time in the past. “On the question of a rapid response unit, we have had several attempts at this measure, dating back to PNM National Security Minister Howard Chin Lee’s term in office, in which 180 special-purpose Vauxhall motor cars were imported from the UK, with state-of-the-art hands-free wireless equipment and onboard computers. These were introduced by Mr Hilton Guy.”
He added that the mention of those names (Chin Lee and Guy) would give the public an indication of how far back policing measures of this kind had been implemented, yet still the problem of crime continued to be a major issue. Turning to the quality and competency of police work, he said zero detective work was being done and the fact that detection rates are not reported was an indicator of failure. “Do the work,” he said.
“Set up surveillance, trap the gang leaders so there are charges to bring, and make the charges stick.” Aboud criticised the police as a “badly managed service, not managed on the basis of performance or merit. It does not reward good work or punish bad work.” He said while Doma feels that Persad-Bissessar is attempting to make changes, the proposed initiatives amount to a rotation of measures that other administrations had tried with and failed.
“The pressure exists in the system for (the Government) to improve this situation,” Aboud said in summing up. “Unfortunately, what the country is looking for are not initiatives, but answers.” While the Chamber of Commerce commended Persad-Bissessar and Rowley for meeting on a united front to address crime, it said the initiatives had been heard before and what was most important was the implementation of a tangible framework for these measures.
In a statement sent to the T&T Guardian yesterday, the chamber said: “We now commend both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition for finally meeting this week to discuss crime management measures. As the Prime Minister said in her announcement following the meeting with Dr Keith Rowley: ‘Crime is everybody’s business and we cannot end it if we put partisan interests ahead of the good of our country.’
“The chamber believes a meeting such as this was long overdue and hope that this step in the right direction does not just represent a knee-jerk reaction by both the Government and Opposition.
“However, after review of the measures announced, it is the chamber’s view that we have heard these initiatives before—from strengthening the Police Service and boosting their morale, to purchase of new police vehicles and CCTV cameras, to social interventions, and finally redevelopment and revitalisation of the east Port-of-Spain area.” The chamber, in calling for the tangible framework, said it must be done with set goals and key performance indicators so the public is aware, once implemented, of the measures’ success.
It added that it looked forward to hearing more on the leadership’s plan for implementation, with national status updates as to the progress of the crime-fighting measures. In outgoing Port-of-Spain mayor Louis Lee Sing’s view, every crime initiative developed over the last 30 years failed to address the issues of human resources. Lee Sing, in a brief phone interview with the T&T Guardian, said he was not aware, at the time of the call, of the initiatives announced by Persad-Bissessar.
When he was told what they were, Lee Sing said many of the initiatives, over the years, have not addressed the issues of the people in the areas he described as oppressed and neglected.
Unemployment in areas such as east Port-of-Spain could possibly stand at 55 per cent, he said, and crime reduction required a modality of economic sustainability for those involved. One of the problems faced by many who commit crime, he said, is that they are not gainfully employed and he called again for the Government to bring in compulsory national service.
Asked about comments from the public that residents should be responsible and obtain their own jobs and education, Lee Sing said while he is not saying residents should not get up and get, part of the Government's responsibility is to assist the most vulnerable.
He said greater interaction between the community and police was needed. A different formula also needed to be worked out as to how to address crime, and Lee Sing said he was willing to sit down with the Government and others to work it out.
MP for Laventille West Nileung Hypolite, in a phone interview, shared similar views to Lee Sing. While saying that the PNM was of the view that crime should not be made a political issue and that he is in full support of Rowley’s meeting with Persad-Bissessar, he said had the current administration continued with initiatives implemented under the PNM administration, crime would have been much less.
The previous government, he said, developed a comprehensive plan for east Port-of-Spain which is currently lodged in the Ministry of National Security and which was formulated after meetings with 19 communities within east Port-of-Spain. The police need to take a proactive approach and understand that they are dealing with human beings. Not everyone from Laventille is a criminal, he said, and people in east Port-of-Spain had the potential to become police officers, nurses, lawyers or clerks.
While saying that the onus is on the individual to achieve and that governments cannot change people who are unwilling to change, he said the Government was responsible for providing options for people who wanted to do so and to have programme and policies in place so that citizens can access them.
User comments posted on this website are the sole views and opinions of the comment writer and are not representative of Guardian Media Limited or its staff. Guardian Media Limited accepts no liability and will not be held accountable for user comments.
Please help us keep out site clean from inappropriate comments by using the flag option.
Guardian Media Limited reserves the right to remove, to edit or to censor any comments. Any content which is considered unsuitable, unlawful or offensive, includes personal details, advertises or promotes products, services or websites or repeats previous comments will be removed.