5,400 Murders Since 2011: Rowley Gives Cost of Surgery for Crime Victims

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By Sue-Ann Wayow

STATING the hundreds of thousands of dollars to treat persons with gunshot wounds, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley says the price of crime is becoming too costly for the state.

Dr Rowley, on Monday gave opening remarks at the Regional Symposium: Violence as a Public Health Issue-The Crime Challenge that is being hosted by Trinidad and Tobago.

Along with other Caricom member states, the symposium, being held at Hyatt Regency in Port of Spain is expected to bring to the front meaningful discussions about the issue that is now deemed a major threat to the Caribbean region.


Apart from the Covid-19 pandemic which raged on from 2020 to the end of 2022 with fragments still remaining in 2023, Dr Rowley said, no other dangerous disease had taken lives like crime in Trinidad and Tobago.

From 2011 to 2022, he disclosed that 5,439 lives were lost as a result of crime, largely to the importation of firearms in the country with 2011 losing 352 lives.

The annual count by 2022 was over 600 which was a new record.

“Already being challenged by the murder rate for 2023,” Dr Rowley added.


He said, “Except for Covid, in a pandemic, none of the listed dangerous diseases have taken lives like this in our population.”

Giving figures, Dr Rowley said, “For the thousands of wounded, victims and perpetrators alike, a surgical intervention to the head costs $170,000. A surgical intervention for a chest wound would cost about $155,000. A shot to the leg requiring surgical intervention would cost approximately $100,000 and a leg shot without surgical intervention could easily cost $40,000, all of this before you leave the hospital.”

He said, “All of these have frequented daily incurred costs and they are to be borne by taxpayers at every level from scarce revenues diverted from other more deserving productive priorities.”

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Listing other diseases just as Covid-19, Ebola and yellow fever for which there are laws, Dr Rowley said violence and crime posed a far greater destructive threat than any of those diseases.

“On that basis alone, qualifies violence as a public health emergency in our country and throughout the Caricom,” he said.

Over the last 15 years, there was also an increased allocation in the national budget to the Ministry of National Security. 

In 2008, policing alone represented 32% of the $4 billion of the Ministry of National Security’s budget.

By 2017, that rose to 38% and now in 2023, policing accounts for 43% of the national security budgetary allocation, Dr Rowley revealed.

He also said that in recent years, Trinidad and Tobago had ten ministers of national security from different spheres and different administrations and yet still, violence increased and this was “an undisputed fact.”


Dr Rowley said, “It has in many instances increased and become even more cynical, clearly the problem does not exist and grow because of a shortage of ministers or even ministerial output.”

Violence, he said, ranges from school violence, home invasions, domestic violence, sexual abuse, human trafficking, drive-by shootings, drug and gang warfare, mindless daily revenge murders and others.

Everyone in society may be guilty of one thing – to deal with violence in a much earlier time frame, in the homes, schools, prisons, courts and even in the parliaments, the prime minister admitted.

Describing a scenario of a creeping normalcy, Dr Rowley said, “We allowed slow, moderate deviant behavioural trends to increase. We allowed slips in our age-old standards in ethical and moral norms in our family homes, in our schools, in public institutions, on our roads and in public places all of which in hindsight should  remind us that we should have checked that.”

Morals and values are now considered flexible while an age of selfish individualism was allowed to flourish, he said.

Over the next two days, attempts will be made to address the full scale of crime and violence as a public health issue Dr Rowley stated.

He said, “Hopefully, there will be elements of operational consensus, after the planned examination and exchanges which will form a plan of action that will give the Caribbean people, their much needed assurance that something beyond talk will be done.”


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