Twenty-four murders in two weeks. That figure will be higher by the time
you read this. Many of them have been double and triple murders. Three
men were shot in Erin on Sunday last week. One died from his injuries.
There have been at least 312 murders in T&T for the year so far, in
addition to an undetermined number of missing people cases in which
those missing are believed to have been killed.
When this happens, we the impotent people, seeing every day that people
get away, that almost no one is arrested, tried, or jailed, cry
impotently, “hang them high,” or long for someone to actually take
So much for that. Opposition politicians are pointing fingers at
National Security Minister Edmund Dillon and the new PNM-led government
blaming them for the increase in murders and its inability to deal with
crime. Acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams responded by
claiming that murders in this country had nothing to do with the police
but was a social issue which was not being properly addressed.
I cannot agree more. I am wary of those who separate criminals from
themselves and say “hang them high,” as if they don’t have anything to
do with us. They have everything to do with us. Firstly, look at our
education system. It has produced hundreds of thousands of functionally
illiterate people who can barely read signs.
Secondly, think of the fact that we now have three, now four generations
of people who have been ‘working’ under make-work programmes like Cepep.
The names have changed, but the fact is that successive governments pump
millions into these ‘programmes’ that for some reason are put in the
hands of gang leaders who call the shots. The wages for the beleaguered
‘workers’ doing ‘make work’ is disseminated by heads of gang members.
I can’t begin to imagine the hopelessness of young men, the sense that
their life itself is worthless, abandoned by fathers, neglected by
mothers who have children by many men. Every day they see bullet riddled
brothers and friends. Nobody’s life has any worth. Especially not
Every government knows the history of the gang member. Neglected by
parents, unschooled, abandoned by State and family. Guns and drugs are
available in every corner in ‘depressed’ areas. I can imagine why guns
and the quick money from drugs is a magnet to neglected boys.
What if government actually had a social policy regarding young people,
those with and without guns? What if, instead of Cepep centres, there
were homework centres to ensure that children whose mothers were
working, or whose fathers were out of the picture, had a safe place to
go to be supervised. What if these social workers visited their homes
and took at-risk children into care?
In March 2012, I interviewed the then commissioner of police Dwayne
Gibbs and it’s worth repeating some of his observations as to why we are
the tenth most murderous nation in the world. I asked him why he thought
our murder rate is among the highest in the world.
Gibbs said: “There is no single reason for homicide. Drugs play into it,
but we see a lot of casual homicides. If a guy looks at someone’s
girlfriend it’s enough to get him killed. It is not restricted to hot
spots, but definitely homicides are driven by poverty, lack of
education, growing up without parental guidance. “We see a lot of boys
on the block, bright kids, with no father around, belonging to single
families where the mother is out earning a living for her children and
the children are neglected.
Fathers need to be around and provide a positive role model for their
sons. People just need to survive. So they turn to crime. “The murders
will drop substantially when social workers come into communities to
care for and support neglected children, when educational, sport and
health facilities begin to rebuild communities in a tangible way, when
the homeless are rehabilitated and made to feel useful again. If we work
one house, one block at a time, it can happen. The most crimes are
committed by the 16-35 age group.
“Between ages 15 and 18, kids start to become hardened criminals.
They’ve watched their parents, friends, family involved in drugs and
guns. They’ve been abused, watched their moms being abused. They learn
this as they grow and adopt it. The police can’t control all the
antisocial behaviours coming out of that. We all need to acknowledge
that this generation needs and gets help: Parental support, parenting
skills, and social service support combined with solid police force that
protects, prevents crime and serves, will ultimately bring down the
murder rate and save this generation.”
Meanwhile, one newspaper commentator wrote on his Facebook page. “Every
time there's a spike in crime, people start invoking the name of
Randolph Burroughs, who they think was the best Police Commissioner T&T
ever had because he used to go rong on de grong wit he men."
“Apart from possibly being a drug smuggler and a murderer, Burroughs was
in fact the worse 20th century CoP this country ever had. During his
tenure from 1976 to 1985, crime increased by 43 per cent, with burglary
rates rising 30 per cent; rapes nearly doubling; and the murder rate
increasing 100 per cent.”
I back acting Commissioner of Police
Stephen Williams’ statement that murders in this country have more to do
with social issues that successive governments have failed to address
than we are willing to acknowledge. But that doesn’t let the police off.
We need strong leadership in the police force and we need it now.