Edge of the abyss

By Raffique Shah
January 12, 2014

Raffique ShahA tragic consequence of spikes in violent crimes such as we experienced in the first week of 2014, is the baying of the hounds, the blood-curdling cries for revenge that are as transient as the surges are cyclical. As soon as the murder rate settles back to what is normal for us, meaning one-a-day, the society will shift into the muted mode. People will hardly note the killing, and the police and government will enjoy a respite from outrage…until the next surge.

Note well how we handle these mini-crises that have root causes so deep, they require well thought out strategies, most of which are medium to long term, if we hope to ever deal with them comprehensively.

The Prime Minister summons an emergency meeting of the National Security Council and demands performance and results. The public can assume, therefore, that as blood flowed, the security overlords were sitting on their butts feasting on Christmas goodies and imbibing the spirits of the season. So the PM had to rouse them from their gastronomic reveries: hey, fellas, there’s a murder spree out there.

Bear in mind these men have been members of the NSC, hence the persons responsible for securing the nation, for making citizens feel safe, for at least three years. They are not novices thrown into the deep in the midst of a crisis.

The National Security Minister proffers a cocktail of gun-talk, bombast and self-flagellation, suggesting that what we are witnessing is the darkness before dawn. I suppose we should all happily hum, “The sun now rising up….”

The Police Commissioner chides the media for focussing on murders instead of a decline in fatal accidents, which he credits to improved police performance. Yeah, right. And the impotent Police Service Commission complains that because of a convoluted system it cannot appoint a CoP, a deficiency that the public is probably praising, since a confirmed joker as commissioner might well make matters worse, not better.

You think it easy in this town? People are afraid to step outside their homes day or night, children unable to enjoy the joys of childhood, riding their bikes in safe neighbourhoods, screaming and playing in parks or on the streets. Older folks, easy targets for petty criminals, imprison themselves behind bars and burglar alarms. And women? Except for the free pass they enjoy during Carnival, they might be better off living in Kabul.

I have no doubt that this surge in violent crimes will subside. It always does. In fact, while I do not have the data to support this, my recollection is that except for a spike in robberies as bandits engage in fund-raising for fetes, there is a decline in crime, especially murder, over the Carnival season. The police attribute this to heightened security. Bull, I say. Even criminals take time out to enjoy themselves in the season of gay abandon.

Last week, I offered some crime-fighting measures, none of them new, impractical or prohibitively expensive, that ought to have been implemented for some time now. Readers have responded, adding to my suggestions, or noting flaws in them.

One security expert pointed out that our first-response mechanisms, such as they are, are seriously flawed. He noted that the emergency medical teams seem geared to “collect corpses”, not save lives. “By saving lives, you might secure witnesses who can identify the assailants, hence enhance the detection and arrests rates,” he said. Makes sense.

He also queried the usefulness of the new Rapid Response Unit and even existing mobile police patrols. “How often do we see motorists committing serious traffic violations as police patrols casually cruise the highways, ignoring the infractions?” Too often, I would say, based on personal experience. And, he added, the police seem to have flooded town centres with foot patrols that focus on minor violations—parking, defective lights, seat belts—while suspicious persons speed past them in vehicles that quite possibly contain firearms, illegal drugs and maybe even the odd victim or corpse locked in the trunk.

Someone else observed that while the state is tardy in installing comprehensive CCTV systems, large numbers of residential and business properties have them. They often capture images of crimes being committed, but the police never follow through. Indeed, I have seen a few video clips featuring “live killings” posted on the Internet. I do not know that the identifiable murderers were arrested and charged.

When the current outrage simmers down as the murder rate drops, what then? Wait for the next round to cry unholy murder, to re-mobilise the NSC and the security forces? We cannot continue running around in circles, hopelessly trying to scratch our rear ends with our mouths as dogs do.

We need to harness all our resources, mobilise all citizens to rescue the nation from falling into the abyss of a “failed state”, over which it is precariously poised.

Government alone cannot do it—nor can the security forces. But first, we must establish mutual trust among all stakeholders, which seems to be the missing link. We’d better find it—fast.

8 thoughts on “Edge of the abyss”

  1. You are correct Raf with the upcoming fetes we need to expect a spate of robberies. Then we will get a hullaballo of reactions to curb crime from agencies and institutions. I need to share this incident with fellow bloggers. In 1984 my wife was t-boned at the Curepe roundabout just before traffic lights were installed. The driver of the other car was ‘pissing’ drunk who could hardly stand up after the accident. At the time I was out of the country and when I got the news I returned immediately. I followed up with the report at St.Joseph police station, which I saw with my very eyes in that ‘big’ report diary at the front desk. A report was taken by the police from my wife immediately after the accident, no report was taken from the other driver because of his condition of being ‘boozed out’. My wife sustained injuries. Later on that report was missing when requested by the lawyer for court proceedings. The officer who took the report was unavailabe, so I was told in my following up. I was not allowed to look into the diary as I had the privilege before. However; when I walked behind the station, I saw the said officer with his feet on a desk looking at ‘blue’ movies in the station. Indeed, we are a reactive people rather than pro active in developing an implementing remedial measures. One of the reason(s) why criminals are on our streets is because most of them are drop outs from schools and colleges and they tend to eke out a living by harming others; what about the education level of these officers, some who are so corrupt complaining of low salaries first and foremost. What happened to effecting their duties first and foremost? Let’s be proactive and fix the education and leagal systems which are run by living souls in T&T first and foremost. I can share many more incidents and I do understand the pains of some when they decide to take matters into their own hands to get justice, which I would not recommend.

  2. Let me say the best crime fighting strategy is strong homes. Most criminals come from homes with an absentee father or mother. I was fortunate to come from a home with both parents. My parents drilled in me certain values that have guided my life away from the temptations of criminality. Yes I was tempted, I was standing over a man who abused our family with a steel pipe in hand about to smash his head in, my elder brother came just in time to stop me. I am thankful for family.

    So where are the restraints to criminal behavior? The restraints are family, societal values, education and the justice system. When family fails, there is still societal values unless the value embraces criminality which appears to be the norm in these “hot spots”. Most of the criminals are uneducated and easy target for criminality. Finally there is the justice system…..or death.

    Can the tide of death be reversed? Sometimes you have to lose a generation and instead focus all energies on future generation, with the hope that the previous generation would not mess up things….

  3. We are reaping what we once sowed. What else you expert? Our systems do not work and our leaders do not lead by example. They are paid salaries enough for them to cope with the cost of living but we are not and have to make do. So there are some amongst us who take the bull by its horns and beg, borrow or steal and murder often results. Take a look at the recent murders, read between the lines and you will note the common root cause…people are slipping, sliding down the economic ladder, seeing the leaders and their well chosen connections well placed in niece jobs not having the required qualifications or job experience and nothing they do works. Petrotrin for example have managers not doing their jobs and are the cause of the leaking oil that have many others suffering so look out for many more murders spinning off from this. These leaders do not intend to resign; the salary and perks too sweet. What happened to Egypt will happen here in another way driven differently by our culture. Say what we like it so.

    1. You are obviously siding with your kith & kin~petrotrin spills were sabotage by the PNM backed OWTU

    2. Trinidad is the second wealthiest nation in the Caribbean. The government have spent more on social programs than any other nation I know. Go to the US and try getting a free education, it does not happen unless you get a scholarship and you have to maintain a high grade point average to keep your scholarship. Yes you would easily spend $40,000 U.S. Just to get a degree.

      The fact is that there are lazy people who don’t want to do an honest day work but sit around everyday expecting the government to solve their problems. These people raise indolent children who feel society owes them and therefore murder is justifiable. Killing people is now a profession in TnT where for $4,000 you can get a hitman to take out your problems. That is the sad reality, money can be a curse or blessings, all depends on who want it and who willing to sell their soul for it….

  4. I keep saying over and over Government after Government keep spending and wasting millions of dollars instituting all kinds of programs on the advice of so-call foreing experts and all has been a failure. Don’t we have any Intelligent Politicians here in Trinidad? I have lived in the U.S. and visited several states, I have also had the opportunity to visit several different Countries and their are only two Countries I walked the streets day or night with out fear and that was in the U.K. and China. I suggest we quickly contact these two Countries and find out how their Law Enforcement Officer don’t carry no guns and the people obey the laws. Quickly reform all the pertinent laws and quickly insitute a zero policy to quickly punish all the perpetrators.

  5. Well if crime in T&T and Guyana is worse than in places like Barbados and Dominica, Grenada and St Lucia, it might be prudent to examine what is in T&T and Guyana and not in those places. The worse values Humanity can bring to any society are the ignorant and imbecilic religious and cultural traits that create social chaos in nations. It would appear that both T&T and Guyana are victims of those circumstances.

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