Former police commissioner Gary Griffith and Opposition MP Roodal Moonilal have slammed Police Commissioner Erla Harewood-Christopher for suggesting violent crime was trending down and Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s apparent support of her claim.
In fact, they yesterday accused the CoP and Prime Minister of being disconnected from reality.
During a TTPS media briefing on Wednesday, Commissioner Harewood-Christopher praised her officers’ anti-crime initiatives, saying murders were trending down, although at the time the homicide toll from last year to this year was only a difference of one. Harewood-Christopher noted that while there were challenges, there was a zero per cent increase in the murder rate compared to a 10 per cent increase for the same period last year.
She repeated the claims during her address before the Independence Day toast to the nation on Thursday.
There have been 393 murders for the year thus far compared to 394 for the same period last year.
During his address at the toast to the nation, following the CoP’s speech, PM Rowley said the figures were encouraging and endorsed the work of the police.
“It is good news to hear that at least on this occasion, we can see some light at the end of the tunnel against the criminal element. If the efforts are sustained, if the new methods are utilised and if we genuinely believe we have the integrity to confront the criminal element, at the end of the day the people of Trinidad and Tobago will prevail and this period of challenge will be a period to be looked upon and say there were times we were challenged but indeed we did succeed,” Rowley said.
However, Moonilal, the Oropouche East MP and shadow Minister of National Security, yesterday described the remarks from both Rowley and Harewood-Christopher as “frightening” and accused them of being out of touch with reality.
“The ordinary people on the ground are aware that things are indeed getting worse. I think the Prime Minister has been away from Trinidad for too long, he spends time in relatively safe countries and safe communities,” Moonilal said.
“He himself is protected by about 20 security morning, noon and night, so as for him, things are getting better, for him things are getting safer, but for the ordinary people out here on the streets of Trinidad and Tobago, it is a war-zone and it is horrible the Prime Minister shows no empathy and no compassion with the victims of crime.”
Moonilal also chided Harewood-Christopher for her description of the statistics, adding that her tone was similar to that of someone describing the results of a by-election.
He said such serious concerns should be addressed and conveyed with the necessary sense of urgency to the public and victims of crime.
“This is serious crime and murder, the most heinous of all crimes and I think the Commissioner of Police lacks a certain level of care and compassion in referring to these dead-heat numbers and claiming some type of victory or some type of positivity coming out of this, while again the Commissioner is aware of the widespread runaway crime of the level of criminality and brutality on this society.”
In a video statement, Griffith, who was succeeded by Harewood-Christopher and is now leader of the National Transformation Alliance (NTA), also rubbished the CoP’s claim, describing it as “ludicrous”.
Noting that several senior police officers were seen clapping in the background as Harewood-Christopher declared the drop in serious crime during the toast, Griffith accused the TTPS of accepting mediocrity as a benchmark.
“It shows the standard we have reached in the T&T Police Service. We are accepting mediocrity and we are again on par for 605 murders this year and if there may be one less than last year with 604 murders, Erla Christopher and the senior officers who applauded her statement will say we are on the right track because now there has been a decrease in the increase of crime.”
Griffith, who served as commissioner from 2018 to 2021, was also critical of Rowley, noting that his endorsement of Harewood-Christopher’s remarks were disheartening.
He asserted that such attitudes were attributed to poor leadership and a lack of proper performance measurement.
“So, he (Rowley) likewise, is stating that if there were 605 murders last year and there may be 604 murders this year, he is seeing that as a success and that is the kind of nonsense this country has to endure because of incompetence and lack of leadership from the chair of the National Security Council.”