No one is trying to be alarmist but one has to face up to certain facts.
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13 per cent of murders ‘solved’
With the murder toll now at 200, 23 more than the corresponding period for last year, police are saying the “solution rate” is on the upswing, with people having been charged in 26 cases. This means that police have been able to close the file in 13 per cent of the cases. Over the last few months the Police Service has been boasting in television and newspaper advertisements that there had been a 26 per cent decline in serious crimes, excluding murder, and the seizure of over 300 guns, the main weapon used in murders.
But that has done little to comfort members of the public who remain crippled by the fear of crime and the brazen daylight killings which remain unsolved. Many, including the Opposition, have blamed the Government for helping fuel gang-related murders through the funnelling of millions of dollars into state-run programmes which National Security Minister Gary Griffith has promised to stamp out.
Head of the Homicide Bureau ACP Wayne Dick, in a telephone interview with the T&T Guardian yesterday, said his records showed that there had been an increase in the number of murders solved. Dick took charge of the Homicide Bureau in mid-2013 and detectives under his command said his leadership had given them motivation to push harder.
Dick said he solved 32 murders this year, six of which had happened in the two preceding years. He added that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Roger Gaspard currently had four other files on murders which occurred this year and by the end of the month four more files would be sent to him for instructions. He said his men were all in sync with the goal and were already ahead by three when compared to the number of murders solved last year.
According to data collected by real-time online crime-tracking Web site, Bullet Points, the North-Eastern Division recorded 35 murders for the year while the Port-of-Spain Division had the second highest murder tally with 33 murders. Gang-related shootings have been blamed for the majority of killings in these districts. Tobago continues to have the least with two for the year, whereas the South-Western Division has the second lowest murder tally with only eight murders.
So far, the Southern Division has not recorded any murders for the year. The other four divisions have recorded a total of 97 murders: Northern with 24 murders, Central with 20, Eastern with 22 and Western with 31. Dick said his unit had been able to charge suspects in high-profile murder cases without relying on eyewitnesses.
Among the cases, he said, was the rape and killing of six-year-old Keyanna Cumberbatch, who was found stuffed inside a shipping barrel at her home four days after she went missing in November last year; the killing of Devindra Siewdass, whose charred remains were found off Matiste Road, Hindustan, New Grant, Princes Town three days after he had been kidnapped for $2 million and that of James “Mr Mt Pleasant” Morris who was stabbed to death at his Mt Pleasant, Tobago, home in April.
He said the three murders, like that of Dana Seetahal, created public outrage and he had assured that once sufficient time was given the cases would be solved. Speaking on the Seetahal murder, Dick said he could not allow information into the public domain through the media as he and his men were bent on solving it. On May 4, shortly after leaving the Ma Pau casino car park on French Street, Seetahal was shot and killed as she drove along Hamilton Holder Street in Woodbrook.
Police said shortly after she passed the Woodbrook Youth Facility, residents were startled by a volley of gunshots which was followed by the sound of screeching tyres. The shooting took place within sight of Seetahal’s apartment at the One Woodbrook Place complex. The Police Service has made Seetahal’s killing its number one priority and is being assisted by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigations.