My fellow citizens…
Based on recent occurrences in East Port of Spain I have engaged in consultations with the Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Keith Rowley and residents of the affected areas. I have met with Dr. Rowley on 2 occasions during which time several critical issues pertaining to crime were discussed.
In addition I felt it necessary to have direct engagement with the residents to hear firsthand their concerns. Indeed as you know, just yesterday I led a public consultation at the South East Port of Spain Secondary School.
Today I want to share with you some of the results of these meetings.
No political party, no individual government can solve crime alone. This is neither a party nor a political issue. The fight against crime should be something that unites us, not divides us.
It will take the collective efforts of the Government, all other political groups, the protective services, NGOs, businesses and citizens.
CRIME IS EVERYBODY’s BUSINESS and we cannot end it if we put partisan interests ahead of the good of our country.
2. OUTCOMES OF MEETING WITH DR ROWLEY
And in that context I wish to express my deep appreciation to the Dr. Rowley, for the willingness he has shown in working with our government to deal with crime.
Based on discussions we have agreed next week Thursday to discuss several of the issues raised.
- Strengthening of the TTPS
- The need to devise a new system for the appointment of a Commissioner of Police
- Morale in the Police Service
- Filling of vacancies and a comprehensive review of promotions in service.
- Explore ways to strengthen witness protection
- Create a specific offence for witness tampering/intimidation
- Immediate manpower audit of TTPS
- Creation of a criminal offence to deal with illegal home invasions
- Recognise that urban renewal could be part of the solution
- Capital Offences and Anti-Gang Legislation
- The need for a Parliamentary Standing Committee on crime suppression and security was discussed. However I will seek further advice on this matter.
- Implementing the recommendations of the Ryan report
- On Bail Act, will consider denying bail if you are a convicted criminal ie. after conviction on a first offence you are charged a second time, you will be denied bail.
- Partial abolition of jury trial for gun or drug offence
3. RESPONSE TO CRIME – NATIONALLY
As your Prime Minister, I have always been focused on fighting crime as my number one priority.
To this end my government has instituted a number of initiatives.
4. GOVERNMENT’S INTITATIVES
- a. Rapid Response Unit
The government has given approval for the Ag. Commissioner of Police to form a Rapid Response Unit (RRU) and to purchase 300 new vehicles for the Police Service.
This unit will be consist of Response Teams and will be equipped with advanced technological devices to improve police response time to crimes that are in progress.
Alongside this, officers will be on patrol throughout the length and breadth of the country.
The Teams will initially be focused on the most crime-prone areas in Trinidad and Tobago.
We expect the Unit to be fully operational before the end of the year.
b. Training for Special Reserve Police
The government has also embarked on a specialized training program for Special Reserve Police officers. This program will enhance their ability to work alongside regular police officers.
This training has started in June 2013 and the first batch of officers are expected to graduate in September 2013.
- c. CCTV cameras
As part of my government’s crime fighting initiative, we introduced a CCTV expansion project which was commenced in November 2012.
As at August 2013, 873 cameras were installed in areas including Beetham, Laventille and Tobago.
Proposals are being sent out for Central, Southern and Western areas.
A Note is currently before Cabinet for the Amendment to the Customs Act and VAT Act to remove duties and taxes on the purchase of CCTV cameras, which my government is assiduously pursuing.
d. Citizen Security Programme (CSP)
The Citizen Security Programme which is sponsored by the Inter-American Development Bank falls under the portfolio of the Ministry of National Security.
The CSP utilises Community Action as its primary strategy, has been operating in 22 specifically identified communities since 2008.
Statistics show that there are marked decreases in serious crimes such as murders, shootings and sexual offences in those communities where the CSP operates.
Cabinet approval has now been given to extend this programme into communities in East Port of Spain.
- e. The National Mentorship Programme
The National Mentorship Programme is co-ordinated by the Ministry of National Security and has been working with our “at risk” youth to promote behaviours which are life enhancing rather than life threatening.
5. SOCIAL INTERVENTION INITIATIVES UNDER CONSIDERATION
In response to the urgent need for targeted social interventions to ameliorate the upsurge in crime, Cabinet is currently considering a proposal from the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development to increase access to psychosocial Counselling and Support Services for Vulnerable Children and Adolescents in Remote and Depressed Areas.
Plans are also in train to strengthen the capacity of the National Family Services Division of the Ministry to better provide and respond to the needs of children and families in all our communities.
Also under consideration by Cabinet is the “Gatekeepers” Project which seeks to take a community-based preventative and rehabilitative approach to address the problem of criminality amongst young males.
These initiatives are intended to bring long term resolutions to the impact of crime in our communities.
6. EAST PORT OF SPAIN
My fellow citizens, over the past weeks we have witnessed several brutal murders of young people in the East Port-of-Spain area. These crimes brought responses of empathy, anger, shock and fear in the national community.
Many measures are being considered in response to this upsurge in violence.
However I wish to assure the Nation that the actions of my Government are not merely reactive to the current violence, nor are they confined to only one geographic area.
My government seeks long-term visions and strategies for the transformation of East Port of Spain as indeed several other areas and communities throughout Trinidad and Tobago.
- a. East Port of Spain Development Company
And so we have mandated The East POS Development Company, which falls under the Ministry of Planning and Sustainable Development to develop and redevelop the area to improve economic, social and physical conditions of this community.
Between 2012-2013, some 26 projects valued at $25,065,958 have been started in the communities of East Port of Spain in areas including Upper Belmont, Morvant, Eastern Quarry, Beetham Gardens, Sea Lots and John John.
Several hundred persons have gained employment on these projects, which have positively impacted the lives of persons in these communities.
Last year 2012, 12 projects were completed.
This year 2013, 14 are in progress. These include Coconut Drive and Pt Pleasant Park Pavilions; Beecham Coco Infrastructure Upgrade; and Community Enhancement work at Beetham Phase 5 and Sea Lots.
Additionally, thirteen (13) wi-fi nodes will also be installed in 9 locations to provide free internet access throughout these communities.
b. Initiatives under consideration for East Port of Spain
From my discussions with the community, it is my understanding that they want to be self-sufficient.
To this end, proposals have been put forward which my Government is currently considering. These include:
- Sustained employment programmes
- Community Training Programmes for school drop outs and unqualified youths.
To this end the Ministry of Tertiary Education and Skills Training has proposed the following initiatives which will help residents in acquiring sustainable jobs.
- The opening of after school part-time YTEPP classes at the South East Secondary School
- Expansion of courses at the Success Laventille/NESC/MIC Technology Centre
- Hosting of a job fair in the Laventille area to include jobs and career coaching counselling
- The availability of the NESC/MIC/SERVOL/VMCOTT/PTSC facilities as centres of assessment for persons with skills but no certification
- Opening of an NESC Computer Training facility on Duncan Street
- Construction of a YTEPP full-time centre at Marylands, Piction.
- Special needs education programmes
- Summer camps in which members of the protective services interact with the children
- Parenting programmes and support for single parents such as the SERVOL Parent Outreach Programme
My government will ensure that these programs are continuous and utilizes the skills and resources in the community.
7. CONCLUDING COMMENTS
My government understands the impact crime is having. It is not just the families of the victims who suffer; everyone does – whether its business trying to encourage foreign investment or the tourist sector trying to show off our beautiful islands.
But most importantly it impacts everyone who feels unsafe in their own communities or their own home.
And I ask you now, our religious leaders, our teachers, our community groups to continue to work with us so that together we may create safe and secure communities and a country free from fear and the horrendous crimes we are currently witnessing.
May God continue to bless all of us and May God bless our great Nation.
[Office of The Prime Minister]