Erla Admits to Over-Exuberance…

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‘Earlier this week, the murder toll reached 300 and our national consciousness was jolted as we reached this dreaded milestone…’ – Erla Harewood-Christopher


By Prior Beharry

FIVE months after Police Commissioner Erla Harewood-Christopher promised a reduction in the murder rate, she admits she was too exuberant in her prediction.

In a 16-minute video released by the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) on Friday night, Harewood-Christopher said, “I made to the public and while some would have said they came from a place of over-exuberance from me, it came from my desire to effect change and from my confidence that the TTPS has the capacity to achieve its vision to make every place in Trinidad and Tobago safe,”

She made the statements after the murder toll crossed 300 for the year and had been approached by the media for comments.

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In February she appeared before a Joint Select Committee of Parliament weeks after being appointed Trinidad and Tobago’s first female commissioner of police.

She said then, “We’d expect to see a change in the murder rate, short-term, by June, and long-term by December.”

Harewood-Christopher said, “Earlier this week, the murder toll reached 300 and our national consciousness was jolted as we reached this dreaded milestone, and in a sense, we all share the collective disappointment that this is how violent our society has become.”

She said, “While I respect the right of individuals to express various views and comments on issues albeit the views may often emanate from a place of despair, anxiety, and genuine concern, even sometimes raw emotion, and understandably so, there must be an appreciation for the fact that there is a lot the police do and knows that would be imprudent and impractical for the police to disclose.”

Harewood-Christopher added, “That void however should not be filled with uninformed and often unwarranted critical views.”

She noted the 286 murders recorded from January to June this year were the highest ever in the first six months of a year in T&T. These murders included 23 double and four triple murders, she said.

The second highest in the first six months was 278 in 2018 in front of 259 last year.

Harewood-Christopher said that the greatest contributor to homicides was gang activity followed by drug activity with the use of illegal firearms to commit the offences.

She revealed that 50% of the murders took place in the area covered by the Region Two Homicide Bureau whose purview was northern and eastern Trinidad.

Harewood-Christopher said for 2023, 51 murders were solved with 47 being people charged. She said that 31 of the charges were for murders that occurred this year.

She said, “We are seeing instability in the gang networks, rivalry among individual gangs, and alliances being formed between breakaway groups resulting in fights for turf.”

Harewood-Christopher said.  “We observe the practice of repeat offenders sharing their experience with their peers and working to empower perpetrators to inhibit the proper investigation of crimes.”

She lamented the lack of witnesses coming forward.

Harewood-Christopher said, “Despite the availability of technological and scientific evidence, the unavailability of the human context severely constrains the work of investigators.”

She added, “Witnesses are afraid to come forward and provide the required information.”

Harewood-Christopher said, “The hardened modern criminal culture does not encourage offenders to account to their conscience resulting in a situation where there are less confessions coming out of investigations.”

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She mentioned some anti-crime initiatives that led to some gains for the TTPS in the past six months.

Harewood-Christopher said 375 illegal firearms were seized compared to 356 for the corresponding period last year.

She said the TTPS seized 9,264 rounds of assorted ammunition, 427 kilos of marijuana and 178 kilos of cocaine with 625 persons being arrested for firearm and ammunition possession and 651 were detained for housebreaking, larceny and robbery offences.

Harewood-Christopher said, “As Commissioner, I appreciate that despite the successes of the TTPS in other areas of policing, it is the murder toll that most concerns the citizenry and causes their greatest anxiety and grief and it is for this reason it carries the most weight in my scorecard and that of every single police officer,”

She promised more initiatives ahead “You would see us building on our successes…”



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