?Relief and satisfaction mark responses to the report that police have arrested and charged a suspect with the attempted murder in Tobago of the English visitors, Peter and Mirium Greene. Positive results of criminal investigations, within one week, are impressive. The detective work that made it possible appears exemplary, and eminently worthy of commendation. The attack on the Greenes, who are still being treated in hospital, made international news, and was, naturally, highlighted in the British media. The UK is an important source of clients for Tobago's staple tourism industry. The adverse publicity of the attack and the sterner travel advisories issued, in response by the British and other foreign offices, represent seriously bad news for both Tobago and Trinidad, and for tourist-arrival prospects in difficult economic times.
Crime, as some travellers have conceded, is an international scourge. No destination can guarantee tourists safety; none is as safe as it used to be. But people, who can still afford it, will choose to vacation in places offering some reasonable assurance of protection to those unfamiliar with the locale, the language, the culture, and the potential dangers. It is how Tobago measures up in relation to such criteria that has made the attack on the Greenes troubling. By any standards, it was a brutal episode; the perpetrator was evidently more motivated to inflict fatal injury, cause disfigurement and suffering, than to rob the couple. The results could be represented as bearing the marks of a hate crime, rather than the more familiar snatch of wallets, cellphones, handbags and cameras.
Nor yet, for the reputation of Tobago, was the attack in Bacolet last week all that rare. Memory is fresh of other such violations, some with fatal results. Tobago has been shown to lack not only the means to prevent such predatory assaults on its visitors, but also the capacity to apprehend and punish the predators for deterrent effect. Low detection rates for violent crimes, particularly murders, have been a deplorable Trinidad and Tobago phenomenon. When this applies to crimes against tourists in Tobago, however, a wider dimension of actual and potential economic harm must be reckoned with. In common with other sensational crimes, drawing national and international attention, the Greenes' case galvanised police action.
Specialist investigators were rushed to Tobago, and soldiers were deployed to strengthen patrols in predictably vulnerable areas. In longer-term response, Tourism Minister Joseph Ross announced plans to assign police on horseback, and others with tracking dogs, to keep watch on Tobago beaches. Two emergency hotlines are to be installed. Under unsympathetic international scrutiny, the authorities need to be seen to be taking Tobago tourism security seriously. Episodes like last week's have been only increasing in frequency. The test of official seriousness will be the proven capacity to sustain attention and the application of resources newly injected. The 25-year-old suspect from Argyle in Tobago is reported to have confessed, under interrogation, not only to mutilating the Greenes last week, but also to the earlier killing of a visitor.
Everyone looks forward to the satisfactory closing of this and other unsolved cases. Investigative resources now poured into Tobago, however, ought to yield evidence more comprehensive and compelling than the extraction of a confession, which should properly have been videotaped. Again and again in the T&T courts, such confessions have proved notoriously liable to be discredited. National shock over the brutalisation of the Greenes could turn to national shame, if law enforcers fail, yet again, to get their man, and make their charges stick.