1500 murders in three years under this Rowley led Government and 68 since his new Minister assumed office

Member for Naparima, Mr. Rodney Charles,
Image Courtesy: Office of the Parliament.

“Three years into their stint as Government and 1500 murders later, we are no closer to seeing any action by this PNM administration to bring crime under control,” says Naparima MP Rodney Charles.

The recently appointed Minister of National Security has uncharacteristically gone quiet since assuming office, most likely overwhelmed by his inability to stem the murder tide and effect any radical shift in policy.

In January this year, which was recorded as the bloodiest month in our history, Trinidad and Tobago was ranked by World Atlas among the top 10 countries with the highest murder rates.

We only at the second day in October and murders are projected to exceed 500 for 2018.

When will this Government take a serious look at the plethora of social and economic factors which impact crime and come up with holistic strategies? Do we not see a link between the 6000 Petrotrin layoffs for example and the potential for crime to increase? Can the Minister harness the collective forces of all institutions like the Immigration Department, the TTCG and the Prison services under his remit in the fight against crime?

For 2018, the National Security Ministry was allocated $6.4 billion dollars. Finance Minister Colm Imbert said, in addressing crime and criminality, that it continues to be “the number one priority of the Government”. He said as such, greater effort will be placed on crime reduction. However, it is very clear that taxpayers are not getting value for money as the funds being put into crime fighting are not bringing results. In many instances monies are not even being spent. For example, in last year’s development program, $82.5 million was allocated for upgrades of the Prison and Fire Services and the Immigration Department. Only $56 million was spent

In the 2019 Budget, National Security received the second highest allocation.

Given the Government’s poor implementation record it remains to be seen how much of this $6.1 billion allocation will actually be spent where it matters like the Forensics Science Centre, the Prison Service and on domestic violence.

Violence against women continues unabated. A recent study of over one thousand women locally has shown that one in every three women has suffered from domestic violence. Officials note the increase in reports of domestic violence cases and deaths. What strategies are being contemplated to reduce violent crimes against women? We recall the school teacher and mother of five, Margaret Guevara who was shot and killed by a male relative in her Sangre Grande home. And 27 year old Tehilla St Clair, chopped to death in her Palo Seco home in front of her 5 year old son. How many more must die?

The National Crime Prevention Programme, hailed as an action-oriented initiative to stop the crime pipeline, has been nothing short of a PR stunt to distract the population from the yearlong inactivity by this PNM administration with respect to crime. Not a word about this National Crime Prevention Programme in this year’s budget.

They fought for the Anti-Gang Legislation (AGL). We supported it. To date, as UNC leader Kamla Persad Bissessar recently pointed out, not a single gang member has been arrested based on the AGL which they said they were most ready to implement.

Gang activity is nothing new. Do we have properly functioning Gang Units? In the US Gang Units know every detail of gang members in their jurisdictions. They have programmes to monitor and disrupt recruitment by gang leaders. They even have advanced knowledge of gang activities and make timely interventions to forestall proposed turf wars. The witness protection program, critical in dismantling gangs, remains moribund.

“This PNM administration has become a case study in ineffective, hopeless, extempo, and clueless governance,” says MP Charles. The State is tasked with developing policies to reduce crime. The Minister cannot abdicate that responsibility to law enforcement or anyone else.

We await the statistical data that will show whether or not this Government is up to the multifaceted task of protecting our borders, reducing the availability and impact of drugs, developing civic minded and more prosocial youth, reducing recidivism in our prisons, helping at risk youth and bringing to Parliament legislation that would deal humanely and decisively with our refugee crisis.

We should not hold our breaths that we will significantly reduce our murder rate given the policy vacuum, lack of strategic vision and interagency coordination that exists.

We await the Minister of National Security’s policy prescriptions that will significantly impact crime. Hopefully he will find his voice.

Rodney Charles
MP for Naparima