Commentary: Solving Crime

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Alicia Chamely
By Alicia Chamely

“THEY will arrest you, they will throw you in a hole and we will not be able to find you,” former acting editor-in-chief of the Trinidad and Tobago Guardian Newspaper, Anthony Wilson cautioning his staff not to test the police circa 2011, when the People’s Partnership announced they were putting the country under a state of emergency (SoE).

The 2011 SoE was an effort the then Kamla Persad-Bissessar led PP Government to control and reduce crime. There was a lot of hub bub and questions as to whether it would work. Surprise! Surprise! It didn’t!

In fact, all it did was cost us taxpayers millions of dollars in settling wrongful arrest cases. Cases the state was doomed to lose, as according to our current Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, affidavits that needed to be signed by Persad-Bissessar and her then attorney general Anand Ramlogan, to legitimise the arrests were not signed.

On Thursday, I carved an hour-and-half out of my life to watch the prime minister’s address at the weekly Post Cabinet Press Conference, so you wouldn’t have to. It was class.

The hand gestures, the facial expressions and the way he loses his cool and vibrates with a chaotic rage. It amuses me greatly.

Not everyone appreciates the way our PM talks, but I do. Probably because I have similar vernacular and a penchant for describing things in the most bluntly absurd ways when I am emotional about something.

Now back to the PM’s take on our crime situation and the opposition leader’s suggestion of another SoE, which funnily enough, her right-hand man National Transformation Alliance leader and crime expert Gary Griffith said won’t work. Gotta keep your ducks in a row there KBP.

Dr Rowley was honest. He admitted criminals have the “jump” on our police service. A service, he quite frankly said, isn’t the best and isn’t as effective as it should be.

He also continued saying there were issues with our justice system, referencing a case that took 20 fricking years to be ruled on. Hmmm! Admitting weakness, this is strange. Recognising the obvious, also not normal for a politician.

So, where’s the plan?

The PM said the Government and its various arms were working to get the police service where it should
be and consulting with US agencies to do so. He would later say at a PNM meeting in San Juan later, that
he was instructing the Minister of Ban Yuh Belt… I mean Finance, Colm Imbert to release $100 million to be used by the T&T Defense Force to go into underserved communities to help steer the protect these communities and steer youth away from gangs.

I wasn’t extremely impressed. What stood out to me and what I disagreed with the most during the PM’s press conference was, when saying we needed to depend on and support our security services, our PM said, “We can’t ask the teachers, or the priests, or the nurses to fight crime.”

Sir, you can. Not in the sense that you strap a gun on them and give them the authority to arrest people.
But these arms of society are vital in the prevention of crime. They are tools in a proactive approach to
eradicate criminality.

Education– ensure all schools are assigned both psychological counsellors and remedial professionals to deal with children who come in with behavioral or educational issues.

Ensure all schools are properly maintained and equipped. Rework our educational system to be more inclusive of different learning styles. Create more vocational programmes. Incorporate classes on ethics, empowerment and entrepreneurship.

And if you have an extra $100m give it to the teachers.

Religion – encourage and help facilitate outreach programmes through the various religious organisations in T&T. Youth mentorship, counselling, community building, all needed.

Health – provide more community-based clinics on parenting, birth control, psychology, physical wellness. Have nurses and doctors go into schools, into community centers, into the rural areas.

Yes, this is expensive, and yes it means more manpower is needed, but the most overlooked solution to
our crime problem T&T is prevention! We are always focused on reactionary measures, which only serve as temporary.

Our PM is right that our systems are not up to par, and it is somewhat comforting that the man in charge recognises this. There is a lot of work to be done. Unfortunately, initiatives like SoE’s or increased police patrols don’t get to the root of the problem. For this to be done our PM needs to look at all arms of the government and create a comprehensive, holistic plan, that empowers our people, strengthens them and provides them with the tools needed not to engage in or be lured into gangs and other criminal activities.

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