For the first 205 days of this year, 300 people have been murdered and, if the trend continues, it is anticipated that last year’s 516 figure will be surpassed.
Criminologist Daurius Figueira told Guardian Media from all trends T&T seems to be heading to the 500 figure.
“As to the exact number we cannot tell if it will come close or exceed but what is given it will reach 500,” he said.
In the last 25 years, the murder count only surpassed the 500 mark three times —in 2008 it went to a record high of 550, decline to 509 in 2009 and spike again in 2018 to 516.
“There are 160 days remaining for the year and unless police can suppress the surge in gang-related killings, which are blamed for the majority of murders this year, the murder count will climb,” he said.
The latest killing of a fisherman and the murder of Jill-Ann Jerome who was shot dead while walking along Bushe Street, Petit Bourg, took the murder count to 300.
Jerome, 47, was found lying in a pool of blood with a gunshot wound to the head. She was taken to hospital by San Juan police officers, where she was pronounced dead. Police say Jerome had a child with a well-known underworld figure who is in prison.
Figueira noted there was a new trend, which he described as a deliberate act to kill people. He was referring to the case where seven fishermen were thrown overboard after their boat engines were taken.
“What is happening now is both on land and at sea murders are taking place. It is clearly a message because they could have just robbed the men and not did what they did. It was reckless endangerment murder especially given the fact that the boat engines were recovered in Sea Lots. All indicators point to local operation,” Figueira said.
Asked if the Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith’s signalling of the return of the Police Marine Branch could help reduce out at sea, Figueira said, “In the good old days Police Marine Branch carried the task of looking after those close-to-shore activities such as smuggling and robberies. When it closed down the Coast Guard had to take over the task but while they were guarding the Gulf of Paria and Venezuela other areas remained glaringly unprotected. So with the return of the Police Marine Branch it will help protect fisherman as well.”
On December 12, 2018, T&T’s murder toll reached the 500 mark. Griffith said then reaching 500 homicides was a most unacceptable milestone for any country but he noted: “If anyone thinks that it can be changed to 250 in a few months, they are wrong.”
In October 2018 during an interview, Griffith told the media the country was on the path to having over 600 murders recorded for the year. He, however, said that with the initiatives that he had implemented, there was a reduction in killings. He said then there were over 70 other initiatives he intended to spearhead within 12 months. He said he hoped for the country’s murder toll to return to an “acceptable level” of 150 per year.
Speaking with the Guardian Media yesterday, Griffith said he intended to reduce the homicide rate by 10 per cent which is already evident, “in the first six months there was a ten per cent decrease...and this will continue until we reach that 200, 150 target per year.”