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Semanticising The Crime
Posted: Sunday, August 25, 2002

By Stephen Kangal

Congratulations are in order for the veteran interviewer par excellence, doyen of the Press Corps, Expressman Clevon Raphael for conducting an incisive interview with Police Commissioner, Hilton Guy which was published in pages 6 and 7 of the Sunday Express of 18 August. What the COP revealed was only exceeded by what he concealed. A subsequent statement issued by the COP at the handing over ceremony for the new police cars confirms this thesis. He complained of having to take the rap for the indefensible decisions arrived by entities (e.g. the Police Service Commission) external to his own jurisdiction.

To read Police Commissioner Hilton Guy in the said interview attributing the genuine concerns being articulated ad nauseam by the majority, law-abiding, plaintiff national community via the responsible print and electronic media against the burgeoning crime wave to a false public perception on the level of criminal activities is flaunting his penchant for indulging in digressionary semantics.

In his view this pseudo-perception is deliberately orchestrated and fuelled by media sensationalism. This is an unwarranted, calculated, pathetic attempt to discredit the reputable, investigative cadre of media workers that is dedicated to strengthening the tenets and principles of accountability and transparency in the public domain as well as to the spirited defence of the public interest.

The COP, with respect, is really saying to us crime terrorized, unsuspecting Trinbagonians : a spade is not a spade. The COP would have us believe it is a piece of flat iron instead.

Why Operation Anaconda, the introduction of a fleet of new police, state- of- the art- functional police vehicles, army-police joint patrols and road checks as well as the flying, controversial urgent visit of American kidnapping consultant Clayton Thomas? We are being told in effect, by the top cop that what you see is not what you see. To misquote the bard: it is throwing dust in the public face.

Before the COP can attempt to solve a problem it is a fundamental first step to solution to admit that the acute problem of exponential crime is holding T&T to ransom. The top cop is trying to trivialise/downplay the crime menace holding our society under siege in order to sanitize and embellish his own stewardship as COP and defend his turf. He cannot admit of a crime epidemic in the face of the compelling empirical evidence available because he will have to assume responsibility for this failure on the part of his agency to effectively protect and serve whom may I ask? Perhaps the COP has fallen victim to his own false convenient perception.

Compare the stance of the Heath Minister recently refusing via the same discredited electronic media to admit of the dengue epidemic in the face of the most convincing data. He had to cave in eventually when his PR machinery threw in the proverbial towel because 3 of his Cabinet colleagues fell victim to dengue.

Imagine COP Guy trying to hoodwink the veteran journalist Clevon Raphael into writing that the 88 murders hitherto, 16 kidnappings, daily escalating burglaries, banditries, car thefts etc are unsubstantiated perception. The ineffective control of crime has had an inverse relationship in the mushrooming home, personal, automobile and the commercial security industry and therefore of inflationary and spiraling consumer costs for goods and services.

To compound matters further the COP adduced that crime is cyclical- not the result of poverty (> 300,000) and incremental unemployment (rising double digits >12%). If I were to carry the COPís cyclical crime theory to its logical conclusion I would have to conclude that it is similar to the unexplained, mystical vagaries of the financial /foreign exchange markets. This is as naÔve as attributing the commission of crime to the phases of the moon.

With respect, the COP is deflating the crime scourge and falsely de-linking it from ineffective, immobile policing stymied by, inter alia, the rogue element, prevailing socio-economic conditions and lack of the necessary tools.

Please Mr. Commissioner, white Ėcollar crime does not threaten the safety of person and his property although it does constitute a surreptitious, growing menace in commercial T&T. This is throwing a digressionary spanner in the crime works. Murders, kidnappings, burglaries etc do and this is the basis for the genuine sense of widespread national outrage.

What has the COP done hitherto about his nice-sounding, multi-pronged integrated (holistic) strategy geared to crime prevention/ reduction? The police are as far removed from the nurseries and incubators of crime as Cedros is from POS or Mr. Panday is from Prime Minister Manning in electing a Speaker on Wednesday next in the current non-functioning parliamentary term.

The COP tried to bamboozle my experienced brother Clevon by positing that crime is a national issue. Accordingly in the convoluted logic which forms a part of the COPís semantics-prone repertoire, it cannot be a political issue (semantics again).

Where is the COP living? Does the Commissioner read party manifestoes as he must? Since 1986 crime has been placed on the front burner of the national political agenda in the 1991,1995, 2000 and will be accorded that priority by all the litigants gallerying on the 2002 election hustings.

The former UNC Govít overtly and correctly politicised the crime menace by adopting strategic high profile, anti-crime policies, programmes and priorities.

For a potential bandit time is of the essence. He/she is neither dissuaded by ethnicity, colour, creed nor political loyalties. The essence of robbery-related crimes is encapsulated in the elegant, simplistic brevity of Dickens: Give me not poverty, lest I steal.

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