|Category: Trinidad Society
||Date: 02 Feb 03
hope you are safe,” ended the e-mail from a friend in Vancouver, whose
Trinidadian friends’ son was murdered here on Christmas Eve.
done more investigation into the murder of a Canadian couple in a week
than journalists and police have in nine years, ” said a Canadian TV
statements were startling – blinding flashes from mirrors because in
these sleepy islands where words rather than actions hold sway, these are
everyday realities to which we are so accustomed that they pass by
unnoticed. The mirrors we look at are grimy, our reflections opaque. We
are gradually turning into a people immured to brutality.
most of us, I too am weary of the Cabinet meetings on crime, the visits
from expert criminologists, the utterances of a bewildered Minister of
National Security utterly lacking in credibility or authority, since he is
after all simply the young son of a businessman, flung as he is into the
arena of politics and crime as a pawn in the game between business and
been said before you might say, but we cannot stop trying to wipe clean
the mirrors that reflect us, because if we do that we might stop seeing
crime dropped in the 90s in New York, three factors were involved. The
first was demographics – the number of young men between the ages of 15
and 30 dropped.
second was a zero tolerance position. So if you spit on the side of the
road, are not wearing a seatbelt, littering, urinating in a public place,
speeding, driving polluting cars, dumping garbage in a public area,
wardens jumped on you with fines.
third factor that reduced crime in New York was beefing up the police
force, spending money to work out high-crime areas, freeing up police
officers to actually do their jobs (overtime for police officers is either
extremely expensive or results in compensatory time off) and making the
police accountable. Superintendents were held responsible for the crime
statistics in their areas and their salaries and bonuses were directly
linked to performance.
following measures could help us emulate New York’s successes in the
fight against crime.
“traffic wardens” who will monitor smaller offences and leaving
the police to tackle serious crimes.
computers and fax machines in police stations to avoid police officers
driving across the country to drop documents to court.
police discipline is handled by the Police Service Commission. This
clearly doesn’t work. We need to create an independent internal
investigation unit which has the power to call in and discipline
reform must finally become a priority.
offences are committed by people out on bail (sometimes for an
alarming three years at a time). Rather than reduce bail, the obvious
response should be to deal with their offences quickly. This will also
solve the problems of witness protection, which is a costly and tricky
exercise since people now have no real faith in the police to protect
a majority of crime is now committed by firearm holders, legislation
must be put in place so if a firearm is involved, the sentence is
up the forensic department, which is currently a joke. Many policemen
don’t even know what DNA is. Train the police so they are qualified
to do more than beat witnesses for confessions, and publicise the
training so citizens develop confidence in the Police Service.
reform must be tackled with great urgency. Some 70 per cent of
prisoners are repeat offenders. The conditions in prisons are
sub-human and disorganised so petty criminals are flung together with
murderers. It is known as the University of Crime. In order to survive
you have to be hard, or bad or part of a gang.
of getting their O’Levels, gaining a degree, learning a trade, giving
back to society by fixing schools, or sports fields, or building
community centres, “hard” and “bad” are the skills with which
convicts emerge from prison.
ideas have been floating around for decades and are by no means new or
conclusive, but I am throwing them out as part of a larger debate that
must evolve if we are to rouse ourselves out of our apathy, our sense of
all know, too, that the real root of crime is a sense of
disenfranchisement by whole communities because they lack collateral,
can’t start businesses, have been squatting, don’t have deeds.
people are being treated fairly by the State, unless squatting is
regularised, in Laventille, in Caroni, unless people are given deeds which
will tie them back into society, unless people have the expectation of
improving their lives with a decent minimum wage, literacy programmes, a
working healthcare system, people will not buy into mainstream society,
and will continue to find lawlessness a fairer system.
time has come to wipe the grunge off the mirrors that reflect our
apathetic selves, to understand that we are all responsible for our safety
and to hold those in power accountable.