For the first time in Trinidad and Tobago’s history, there were more than 600 homicides recorded in a calendar year, making 2022 the country’s deadliest year ever.
With 33 days to spare, T&T reached its highest-ever toll of 551 murders.
The lives of citizens from all parts of the country–from Port-of-Spain to Mayaro–
and from as young as one year old to 88 years old, were snuffed out in 2022.
As early as May, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds both acknowledged that the country’s crime situation was ‘horrible’.
“I can’t recall a period of time, in a period of weeks, such viciousness of crime and frequency of crime in and among family members, and out on the street. It was just a while ago that I made a comment that we are a violent society and apparently, people are attempting to prove that statement true,” Dr Rowley said on May 12.
In July, at a post-Cabinet press conference, the Prime Minister revealed that the Government intended to declare violent crime as a public health issue. The murder toll then was under 300.
“...Violence across the society is now the norm–from domestic violence, violence in schools, the violence of persons against persons, armed responses for everything, and, of course, the gains to be had by criminal conduct where lives are lost and property is being destroyed and stolen and so on. It is a whole plethora of violent, unacceptable conduct,” Dr Rowley said.
And as the public pressure on the Prime Minister to fire the National Security Minister mounted, he repeatedly said he had no intention to remove the Laventille West MP from his ministerial post.
In August, Dr Rowley admitted again that the country’s crime rate was unacceptable. However, once again, he repeated his belief in Minister Hinds.
“How we could change the Minister of National Security and that (crime rate) will change? If that was so, it would have changed under the United National Congress. They had six national security ministers and when all of that failed, add to that, a state of emergency,” Dr Rowley said on a political platform.
The PM claimed that the country’s troubling crime rate was not unique to T&T, claiming that other Caribbean islands were facing similar problems.
This explanation, however, did little to alleviate the growing public pressure on the Government to address the issue, which came from business chambers, ordinary citizens, and non-governmental organisations.
Caribbean neighbours Jamaica, Barbados, St Vincent, and St Lucia all had relatively murderous years.
In mid-November, Barbados passed 40 murders for the year–its highest number since 2019.
Five days ago, St Lucia arrived at 72 murders-two less than its 2021 total.
Meanwhile, Jamaica passed 1,421 murders three weeks ago–more than its reported figure between January to early December 2021.
In response to its increase in gang violence, which led to an average of five murders a day in September, Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness renewed states of emergency in eight parishes on Thursday.
Previously, in November, he announced states of emergency at the regional level, allowing national security agency members to arrest citizens without a warrant.
In Central America, Honduras and El Salvador–considered two of the most murderous countries in the world with 17,434 murders in 2021 between them–have seen significant declines in homicides.
Governments of both Central American countries suspended constitutional rights to go after gang leaders and members earlier this year.
In March, El Salvador, with a population of 6.5 million people, arrested more than 60,000 gang members. In early December, its homicide total was 612, compared to a 2021 total of 13,537.
Late last week, in a media release, Acting Commissioner of Police Erla Christopher said the only way to stop the surging murders and crime was to hit gang leaders in their pockets by dismantling their financial empires.
File: Radhica Kalloo, mother of Nicholas Kallo, weeps at the scene of his murder in Gopual Ext 2, Picton Street, Diamond Village, San Fernando, in February.
According to statistics provided by the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS), as of December 28, 2022, there were 598 confirmed murders in Trinidad and Tobago. 541 (91 per cent) of the victims were male, while 57 (nine per cent) were female.
The average age of the murder victims was 38 years old.
•The youngest murder victim was one-year-old Nova Bereton who was shot dead along with her mother, 30-year-old Sashell Elliott in Moruga in December.
•The oldest murder victim was 88-year-old Evelyn Piper who was found dead in her Gasparillo home in December.
•20 murder victims were teenagers, while five victims were under the age of 13 years old.
•21 victims were more than 65 years old.
The deadliest locations
•The most murderous area of Trinidad and Tobago in 2022 was Morvant/Laventille with 48 murders. 26 people were killed in Morvant, while 22 were killed in Laventille.
•The second most murderous area was Arima with 46 murders.
•The third most murderous area was Petit Valley/Diego Martin with 38 murders.
•Chaguanas with 30 murders was fourth.
•San Juan/Barataria with 28 murders was fifth.
•Port-of-Spain with 21 murders was sixth.
When the TTPS’ homicide data for the six-month period between November 2021 to April 2022 was examined, there were 285 homicides.
The homicide statistics appeared to be showing a shift towards more murders in the Eastern and Central parts of the country up to that point.
Arima ranked as the deadliest place in Trinidad and Tobago during that period, with Chaguanas and San Juan/Barataria also ranking in the top four spots.
However, the end-of-year homicide statistics suggested that there was a significant increase in murders in Petit Valley/Diego Martin and Morvant/Laventille from April onwards.
By the end of the year, as mentioned earlier, Morvant/Laventille and Petit Valley/Diego Martin moved into the top three most murderous areas.
According to criminologist Dr Daurius Figuiera, the increase in homicides in those areas were largely as a result of gang members seeking sanctuaries from people seeking to kill them.
“You have a lot of people who are being sought and hunted moving and hiding, looking for sanctuary and man going into those areas and finding them and putting them down. So they are actually on the run because they get the message ‘buy your casket,’” Dr Figueira said.
Between January and April 2022, there were ten murders in Morvant/Laventille–an average of 2.5 murders per month. There were 38 murders in the following eight months–an average of close to five murders per month.
Between January and April 2022, there were also ten murders in Petit Valley/Diego Martin–an average of 2.5 murders per month. In the following eight months, 28 murders were recorded, an average of 3.5 murders per month.
Meanwhile, Arima recorded 18 murders between January and April 2022. In the remainder of the year, there were another 28 murders–the same as Petit Valley/Diego Martin, but less than Morvant/Laventille.