Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 27th 2015 Contents A22
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt September 27, 2015
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 undeter-
mined 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 charge.
So much for that.
Opposition politicians are
pointing fingers at National
Security Minister Edmund Dillon
and the new PNM-led govern-
ment 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
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 sys-
tem. 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 pro-
grammes' that for some reason
are put in the hands of gang
leaders who call the shots. The
wages for the beleaguered work-
ers' doing make work' is dissem-
inated by heads of gang mem-
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 theirs.
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
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 home-
work centres to ensure that chil-
dren whose mothers were work-
ing, 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
In March 2012, I interviewed
the then commissioner of police
Dwayne Gibbs and it's worth
repeating some of his observa-
tions 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 defi-
nitely homicides are driven by
poverty, lack of education, grow-
ing up without parental guidance.
block, bright kids, with no father
around, belonging to single fami-
lies 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 sub-
stantially when social workers
come into communities to care
for and support neglected chil-
dren, 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
"Between ages 15 and 18, kids
start to become hardened crimi-
nals. They've watched their par-
ents, 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 anti-
social behaviours coming out of
that. We all need to acknowledge
that this generation needs and
gets help: Parental support, par-
enting skills, and social service
support combined with solid
police force that protects, pre-
vents crime and serves, will ulti-
mately bring down the murder
rate and save this generation."
Meanwhile, one newspaper
commentator wrote on his Face-
"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' state-
ment that murders in this coun-
try have more to do with social
issues that successive govern-
ments 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
Less than three weeks in
office, Edmund Dillon and
Keith Rowley are getting stick
from Kamla over the current
surge in the crime rate.
Yes, 30 killed in 17 days fol-
lowing the election is bad. It's up
there with the 48 murders in
January 2014 and the 44 in July
With 321 killings up to last
Wednesday, we're on track for an
annual body count around 440,
and a per capita murder rate of
32 per 100,000.
But it's hard right now to hold
the newly-installed government
Governments have immediate
push-button control over some
stuff---tax rates, public holidays,
that sort of thing. But they
don't, we hope, control the mur-
Fuad Khan says the Govern-
ment left the nation unguarded
because it was busy packing state
boards with its supporters.
Hang on? Ministers of works,
health and stuff like that should
be dealing with gun crime, not
their core portfolios? No, Fuad.
You don't think that.
He says the murder rate
declined under Kamla. Wrong.
His former prime minister
presided over a slightly higher
average monthly murder rate
than Patrick Manning in 2002-
2010, a period which Fuad calls
"one of the bloodiest and darkest
decades" in this country's histo-
ry.He wants the Government to
"immediately implement meas-
ures to decrease the murder
rate." So, there's a package of
measures to do the magic trick?
And they were not implemented
in 2005-10? Fuad, that does not
And he wants a nice, reassur-
ing statement from Edmund Dil-
lon. Kamla is on the same track;
she talks of the prime minister's
"deafening silence," and the need
for "comfort and assurance."
Comforting statements about
"zero tolerance" and that sort of
carry-on come cheap. But they
don't do a lot of good.
Yes, there are things a govern-
ment can do to bring down the
But for most, the pay-off time
is years, even decades---not days
Prime ministers can leave their
national security ministers in
place long enough to do the job.
And they can avoid making glar-
ingly unfortunate appointments,
such as Jack Warner.
Prime ministers can avoid dra-
matic but ill-thought-out initia-
tives like the 2012 state of emer-
The coast guard can be
equipped to reduce the flow of
guns and drugs. And we can
avoid situations where all the
national security minister reports
that all six patrol vessels and 12
interceptors are out of action.
The chief justice can be given
full financial and legislative back-
ing to introduce reforms. Then
we can move on, and hear
something new when the next
law term opens.
Parliament can reform the drug
laws. That would free up courts,
prisons and police from the
grotesque waste of resources
engendered by prosecuting
small-time ganja users. And
while we're on that track, we can
stop clogging up magistrates'
courts with petty traffic viola-
Crime surges don't just happen
here. Other Caribbean countries
have suffered an uptick in mur-
ders this year.
Jamaica had 826 killings up to
September 5. In rural parishes,
the body count is up by 44 per
cent this year. They are on track
for a murder rate of 45 per
In the Bahamas, murders are
up by 25 per cent. That's equiva-
lent to an annual rate of 41 per
100,000, which would be an
easy all-time record.
Perry Christie's Progressive
Liberal Party fought the 2012
election campaign by blaming
predecessor for an annual body
count close to 100. His own
count now averages more than
126. His party chairman wants a
nightly curfew in crime hot
Peaceful Barbados is in a tizz
over gun crime. There was a
full-scale gun battle last week in
Bridgetown's Westbury Cemetery.
Police commissioner Tyrone
Griffith blames drug gangs.
And Guyana? Murders are up,
with a surge in gangland execu-
tions. After an change of govern-
ment in May, the former presi-
dent's party blames David
Granger's administration---to the
irritation of Police Commissioner
So why the upsurge in mur-
ders? In most Caribbean coun-
tries, a spike in killings can be
traced to an event which desta-
bilises gangland power structures,
triggering a murderous feud. For
example, the murder of G-Unit
leader Kerwyn "Fresh" Phillip in
September 2007 sparked a
What's behind the latest mur-
der surge? I don't know. But for
now, I'm not blaming Keith
Rowley and Edmund Dillon.
POLICE FORCE NEEDS STRONG LEADERSHIP
WHAT'S BEHIND THE MURDER SPIKE?
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