Do not politicise war against crime

By Raffique Shah
February 20, 2019

Raffique ShahBuried in the last paragraph of a document titled “Interim Gang Report 2018”, which was compiled by the Organised Crime and Intelligence Unit of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service and featured prominently in the last Sunday Express, was one of the main reasons why criminal gangs conduct their savagery with impunity, making a mockery of all attempts by new Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith to rein in their murderous rampage.

Said paragraph concludes: “…Extensive co-ordination between the TTPS and the T&T Prisons Service is crucial to expand investigations and gather intelligence to address the growing threat gangs pose to T&T.”

Growing threat? Bull. These gangsters, a mere 2,800 of them (if we accept the OCIU numbers), have terrorised the entire country using heavy armaments and a seemingly inexhaustible supply of ammunition. Whereas CoP Griffith’s mantra is “one shot, one kill”, theirs seems to be “multiple shots, many kills”.

To explain why I argue that this paragraph points to a core problem in the TTPS’ numerous attempts to stamp out gang activities, readers will note that the current clampdown by the Commissioner, during which some 280 gang leaders and members were arrested and detained, has already suffered setbacks when six of the men were released based on a court order. They had not been charged with any offences. We can reasonably assume that most of the arrested persons who can afford lawyers will walk without being charged over the next few days.

Reasons for their release have nothing to do with judges being “soft” on gangsters and criminals in general, or to lawyers’ lust for fat fees. The law says that unless the police charge an arrested person with an offence within a specific time (72 hours, I believe), they must release him—except during a state of emergency when that right (habeas corpus), among others, is suspended.

Clearly, when CoP Griffith decided to stem the killing spree that gangsters from certain districts had embarked upon, he gave little thought to whether or not the police had sufficient evidence to charge them with any offence. It seems to me he just wanted to disrupt their activities, however brief the respite from murders might be.

This brings me back to the report on gangs and its conclusion that the protective services needed to collaborate and “gather intelligence”. Except perhaps for the number of gangs and their geographical spread, the 2018 report adds nothing new, nothing that we did not know 20 years ago. The faces of the gangsters will have changed given the rate at which they are exterminating each other, and their weaponry upgraded. But what else is new?

It’s certainly not the intelligence gathering. In any war, including the campaign against armed gangsters, good intelligence is an absolute pre-requisite to taking action. A general never takes his troops into battle without good intelligence on the terrain, details of the enemy forces, etc. In the instant case, crime investigators, armed with virtual profiles on gangsters and their modus operandi, and having at their disposal an array of electronic monitoring devices and eyes-on-the-ground, can easier accumulate justiciable evidence that is necessary to nail the perpetrators of gangland murders and other serious crimes.

Good intelligence will also alert the Government and state agencies to gangsters trying to secure contracts, extort “protection” money from bona fide contractors, and working in cahoots with public officials, among them politicians, to pillage public funds. Such intelligence will provide investigators with leads so that they, in turn, can compile cogent evidence to arrest, convict and jail the gangsters and their collaborators, whatever high offices the latter may hold.

These elements seem to be missing from the current scenario: thousands of gangland murders over the past 10 years and only a handful of gangsters charged…note well, charged, not convicted.

In the 2018 OCIU report, the only intelligence its officers provided thus far are the names and numbers of gangsters and the districts from which they operate—which no judge can use to justify detaining them, nor can the Director of Public Prosecutions use it to charge them.

Back in 2011, when Griffith was the Minister of National Security in the People’s Partnership Government that declared a state of emergency over a similar murder-spree, I wrote a piece warning that they’d better have good cause for the detentions. They didn’t, and several detainees successfully sued the State, which was made to pay them hefty sums.

One might cynically say that in such instances, crime pays.

Look, all citizens, and even visitors to our shores, agree that we need to find ways to curb crime before it consumes the soul of the nation. Griffith’s no-nonsense approach to the problem since he became commissioner has impressed many people. Indeed, he has enjoyed some successes, especially with respect to a few kidnappings-for-ransom, and more recently, human trafficking.

But gangs as well as so-called white-collar criminals are a different breed: the kingpins believe they are untouchable. They wield inordinate influence in their habitats and skillfully exploit the wretched who see them as heroes, godfathers.

To successfully engage such criminals calls for a range of interventions—social, educational and economic initiatives being critical. There must also be reforms in the justice and penal systems, which will require all politicians to put the national interest first. In other words, when crime is politicised, only the criminals benefit.

Unless and until all interest-groups understand the importance of these prerequisites to winning the war against crime, Commissioner Griffith will be patching potholes rather than paving the path to a crime-under-control T&T.

5 thoughts on “Do not politicise war against crime”

  1. Before the first UNC Panday Led Gov’t gangs was almost non existent in Trinidad , the level of Crime in Trinidad did’nt happen overnite , some of us tend to continue burying our heads in the sands of Mayaro hoping to forget the history . Wanna be Soldiers with their love for decking off in anything Military , tend to lose their sanity , while celebrating bravado . Lets take a ride, a former military captain/PP gov’t member, culminating in the office of National Security , regressing into COP ? a true Soldier don’t ever get so low . We expect people of Mr Griffith’ caliber to evolve into something like a lecturer or Professor in a school of higher learning , but NO , he is on track to making a name for himself killing dispossessed and mis-educated young black men , nothing to feel good about . White collar crimes committed by his former and past UNC/PP associates , is being swept into the Caroni River , while the Betham and Upper Laventille takes center stage in the name of fighting Crime . I don’t know what Dr Rowley hoped to accomplish by bringing Mr Griffith and Gypsy into his inner circle , these gentlemen have failed Trinidad , we should call them for what they really are , TRAITORS of a Nation . As long as fighting Crime is directed towards one particular societal group , we spinning Top in MUD , as long as Trinidad continue to put PROFITS before People , Crime will be in our midst. Dr Rowley’s Gov’t is still in the process of dragging their “YU KNOW WAT” on brining some of the MISCREANTS of the past UNC/PP Gov’t to Economic Criminal Justice , this much anticipated dent in crime will not take place moving forward , if it is seem as if justice is only directed towards the dispossessed . The Greatest disease of a Man/Woman Soul , is UnGodliness and Ignorance , don’t be misled .

  2. The hubris behaviour of the powerful criminal elements is understandable. Their web connects deeply. They are attached to multi million dollar operations. Their tentacles reach far and wide. Dole Chadee once boasted of “buying”, police, judges, magistrates and even those “saintly” politicians. These criminals are “hydra head” monsters, chop one of the head off and another springs up. Why? Crime pays a lot.

    The recent bust of 19 senoritas young and in high demand will see a justice system targeting some small fish but the sharks will remain untouched. Businessmen willing to pay up to $10,000 a night whilst away on “business” possesses the skill not to be caught. After all these practioners have mastered the art of deception. Drugs, senoritas come in unchecked at ports in Westmoorings. An area that is notorious for drugs and senoritas.

    Gary will soon realize he is dealing with an alien culture an alien world were money rules over morality. A world if he is not careful he could get sucked into as was top CoP Randy Burroughs.
    The mafia world is well connected. Trinidad Syrian mafia exist through a web of fronts, media, businesses, yatching, gang leaders, hit men, policemen and most highest prize politicians. Politicians basically select everyone of importance in governance. So they are indebted to the office of the PM etc. They only need an illiterate mass of people supporting the politicians to ensure their business network functions smoothly.

    Griffith must be supported but it is now a known fact that the CoP faces many challenges!

  3. We can continue with the useless PNM VS UNC accusations of corruption or we can actually start doing something about all corruption. The motto of the nation is ”Together we aspire, together we achieve”, what nobody thinks about is that that also means that if we fail we fail together.

  4. “To successfully engage such criminals calls for a range of interventions—social, educational and economic initiatives being critical. There must also be reforms in the justice and penal systems, which will require all politicians to put the national interest first. In other words, when crime is politicised, only the criminals benefit..”

    Iceland had one of the worst record for bad teenage behaviour, that was 20 years ago. Today all that has changed.

    Things can change but it has to begin today. The major cause of crime is the absent father and the break down of the family unit. Parentless kids (kids unsupervised) are likely to turn to gangs, drugs and promiscuity to satisfy their emptiness…

  5. In my opinion, crime has already consumed the soul of the nation. Gone are the days when a Trinidadian would do anything to enjoy a fete, or Carnival. Nowadays people are moving their families to some desert country to fight.
    We have lost the ability to recognize right from wrong. Our politicians do the wrong thing and say, “they used to do that too.” We say nothing when bandits kill a young child, but burn tires and jumbie the police when they try to arrest a suspected bandit.
    We choose to sound like idiots to defend our corrupted politicians. PNM held the record, the belt, the crown, silver cup and trophy for corruption, until a man called Anand came on the scene, and there are people who will sell their souls to defend him.
    Crime is we thing. In s small place like Trinidad, where everybody knows somebody from somewhere, to date our police service has not been able to arrest or stop a single drug lord.

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