National Security Minister Edmund Dillon admits he was "not comfortable with the results so far with regard to the murder rate," and he wants police officers to "get out of the police station," telling officers "your presence is what will act as a deterrent."
The minister also dismissed calls for a limited state of emergency, saying it was not necessary as he trusts the "law enforcement agencies" to bring crime down.
Dillon said he understood the context in which the recent call by the Chaguanas, Couva/Pt Lisas and Penal/Debe Chambers was made for a limited state of emergency.
"I am very much conscious of the type of murders and crimes taking place right now. I am not undermining the state of affairs we are in right now. I am not saying there isn't a reason, but what do they mean by a limited state of emergency?" He said he was not sure if they are talking about limited in terms of time or geography.
Dillon said section eight of the Constitution was clear on when a state of emergency should be imposed by the President. The country must be in a state of war, there must be a natural disaster or in a state where the country was under threat.
"A state of emergency," he said, means, "you have exhausted all other methods." But Dillon said, "I still have trust in the law enforcement agencies in bringing crime down."
Asked the basis for his trust at a time when citizens are crying out for action in the face of spiralling crime, Dillon said, "My trust to a large extent is based on the large amount of persons within the agencies who continue to work day in and day out."
He said the majority of persons in law enforcement are "working assiduously." They are putting in a lot of time and effort.
"They are the ones who have to deliver. They are in the operational environment."
Dillon said there was need for "a number of targeted operations," and wants law enforcement agencies to "focus on the small number bent on creating havoc."
In a television interview, Dillon said, "The police cannot be all over, but they must be as much as possible in areas where we consider there was a big threat. Police cannot stay in the confines of a police station, get out of the police station, be present, your presence in communities is what will act as a deterrent."
In the first 33 days of the year there have been 54 murders.
In early January, shortly before leaving this country former US Ambassador John Estrada said if he was in charge of the Police Service he would fire himself in the face of a spiralling crime problem.
In response, acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams said he saw no reason to resign. He said he did not base his performance alone on murders.
"I will be the first person to walk if I am dissatisfied with the effort that I am putting in and the results that I'm getting. If murder was the only crime which occurs in T&T I would have resigned," Williams said then.
Dillon would not give a fail or pass mark on the efforts to bring murder down but said yesterday "murder is the barometer by which we are measured and so our efforts are targeted against bringing down that murder rate."
Asked whether he felt powerless to hire or fire in the Police Service, Dillon said, "I am not the manager of the Police Service. That is the Police Service Commission, the minister does not manage and does not have the right to hire or fire."
He recalled attempts made by his government to change the management of the Police Service shortly after coming into power, "those attempts were stymied by the Opposition. They took it to court. We have seen that they went against the Bail Act which was deemed null and void."
Dillon said as soon as the Bail Act fell down Kerlan "Miceman" George, who was killed outside the Maracas/St Joseph Police Station last month, was released on bail and went back to a life of crime. He said the Government needs to have the "Opposition on board, give support." He said crime was "not only for one entity" it requires an inter-dependence approach.
FIVE STRATEGIC PILLARS
Minister Dillon said he has articulated to National Security Agencies that government was prepared to strengthen five strategic pillars in the fight against crime.
These are: "prediction-which is in fact intelligence gathering we feel there is a weakness, deterrent, detection, prosecution, and rehabilitation, those are also areas we can use to measure the agencies performance," he said.
Prediction, he said, allows the agencies acting on intelligence to say in advance what the criminal element intends to do "so we can take appropriate action."
In terms of deterrent, he said, this was where "we ensure that the law enforcement agencies, the police and Defence Force are managing resources in a way that gives citizens a sense of security and comfort."
On the issue of detection, Dillon said, this was "how can we as a government and I as minister assist with the resources required to improve detection and prosecution."
Dillon also said there was need to improve the court and judicial process. He said "we have people in remand yard 12-15 more years waiting on trial, we have to look at the Judiciary. If you commit a crime and you know next week you going to trial that is a deterrent," he said.
Dillon said he will continue to do his best to deal with crime.
"I will do my best and let God do the rest," he said.