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Take a ‘bite’ out of crime

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

I have no doubt that in the past week, both the incoming Minister of National Security as well as the Police Commissioner-designate have both been privy to advice—both solicited and unsolicited—as to how the issue of crime can be quickly brought to heel in Trinidad & Tobago.

The following are my five (unsolicited) tips for taking a ‘bite’ out of crime:

1. Recall ALL officers from leave with immediate effect. Until the situation improves noticeably, not a single officer should be on vacation leave. The TTPS and the Ministry of National Security should also actively investigate a transparent means through which accrued leave can be ‘bought back’ from officers.

2. Increase police presence and visibility. Beginning with the busiest roads and intersections, there should be two police teams in operation at every intersection and highway flyover and off-ramp. Two policemen in a vehicle and two operating on foot. These teams (with the support of licensing officers where required) are to operate in a manner that will best ensure that the public obeys and maintains all the laws of Trinidad & Tobago. No driving with broken lamps. No driving on shoulders. No road rage. No speeding. Based on their best judgement these teams are to identify any vehicle, driver or passenger who appears suspicious. And they are to search, seize and arrest as required.

3. Walk the beat. In more urban areas and commercial business districts, re-institute the old ‘beat’ system where police officers are assigned short circuits to patrol on foot. In more at-risk areas, let this be done as a joint police-army patrol. And again give the police the leeway to act based on their discretion. And to stop, search and seize as required.

4. Create with immediate effect a joint task force consisting of members of the TTPS, the Defence Force, Coast Guard, Customs and Excise and the Ministry of Legal Affairs. This task force is to operate on a continuous basis making raids on premises where it is suspected that guns, drugs and other contraband may be kept.

5. Introduce an amnesty for all illegal guns to be handed over to the police and for all citizens on outstanding warrants to turn themselves over. Beyond this amnesty (30 days), the Government is urged to pass tougher gun possession and dealing laws, including making persons who supplied the illegal firearm an accessory before the fact. Post amnesty, I would also advocate that the task force in point 4 be charged with the responsibility to apprehend all firearms and outstanding warrants using ‘whatever means necessary’.

Ultimately, the issue in Trinidad & Tobago is one of enforcement or lack thereof. We take liberties in large part because we believe that there is a good chance that we can get away with it.

Nothing seems to underscore that point more than the fact that when Trinis travel and live abroad, they know better than to jay-walk or litter or speed. Why is it that the same seemingly lawless citizens are transformed into model citizens when they migrate? The answer in a word is ‘ENFORCEMENT’.

Given a vigilant, motivated police force with a zero-tolerance attitude to even the most basic infraction, I am confident that the population in large part will also be motivated to uphold the law instead of routinely breaking it.

That’s my (unsolicited) five cents. What do you say T&T?

George Elias


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