Demming: Dr Rowley’s Carenage interview suggests gun violence trauma at epidemic level

An interview with Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and his constituents seemed to aggravate a deep wound in that area. What I saw and heard was a man from within the constituency reliving the pain of the shooting death of his mother WPC Bernadette James and asking for some assurance that the shooting death of a 14 year old female by a police officer would be investigated.

Twice, he mentioned that he was seven years old when his mother was allegedly accidentally killed on the rifle range on a training exercise in Chaguaramas. He personalised the shootings for Rowley by pointing out that the Prime Minister’s godson was shot on another occasion.

This brought the issue of police shootings very close to the Prime Minister and made me ask the question: What can be done?

Photo: An irate Carenage resident, who identified himself as the son of slain WPC Bernadette James, makes a point to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.

The optimum approach would be a collaboration between the Government and the Opposition but, with the recent arrest of a former UNC Attorney General and current Opposition Senator, that seems highly unlikely.

In 2015, under the Leadership of then Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Trinidad and Tobago was listed as an adaptation partner in the Cure Violence programme, which is having global success. But as usual, when either the UNC or the PNM wrest power from each other, they simply discontinue initiatives and start over.

The Cure Violence model to prevent violence is currently being implemented in 10 countries across more than 25 cities and 60 communities. Programmes are expanding into new communities in Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Latin America, as well as in the Middle East, including Syria. Seems to me that since Trinidad and Tobago has some experience with the programme, we could stretch across the aisle in Parliament, discuss the benefits that could be derived and work towards implementation.

The Cure Violence Programme came to my attention via TED talk by Epidemiologist, Dr Gary Slutkin who applied lessons learned from more than a decade fighting epidemics in Africa and Asia to the creation of a public health model to reduce violence through behaviour change and disease control methods.

He is an Ashoka Fellow, a Professor of Epidemiology and International Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago, a senior advisor to the World Health Organization and the 2009 Winner of the Search for a Common Ground Award.

Photo: A thug shows off his weapon in Trinidad.

A second area crying out for attention is the thousands of people who have been impacted by deaths by shooting over the past five years. It is reported that we have had 2,000 deaths by shooting and if we assume that each death impacted 10 people, then we perhaps have 20,000 people suffering some kind of trauma associated with gun violence. Unless there is some meaningful intervention, it is likely that this trauma will lead to more violence.

Crime in Trinidad and Tobago is now at epidemic level and the solution lies in a collaborative approach.  It is time to depoliticise crime in the interest of the citizens of our country.

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About Dennise Demming

Dennise Demming
Dennise Demming grew up in East Dry River, Port of Spain and has more than 30 years experience as a Communication Strategist, Political Commentator and Event Planner. She has 15 years experience lecturing Business Communications at UWI and is the co-licensee for TEDxPortofSpain. Dennise holds an MBA, a B.Sc. in Political Science & Public Administration and a certificate Mass Communications from UWI.

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    A 2 pronged approach should be a no compromise view of crime. White collar and blue collar, bandit or bribe receiver, Doctor, garbageman, politician roadside vendors. The police need to treat them all in the same manner. Such consistency will make the intelligent criminals cut back.
    The second prong is to destroy the social and economic exploitation and disparities that breed the criminal minds. Runaway inflation, underpaid workers, insufficient opportunity to advance in education. Taxes cannot be the sole means to economic growth. Financial institutions and the private sector need to take up the responsibilities

  2. The risk of being shot without trial by police, business owners or rival gang members doesn’t deter them. Maybe try other methods like better education, better prison models including rehabilitation, better community planning to prevent hot spots, more opportunities for success, less stigma and put downs, better modelling from the top eg less leaders involved in corruption, more transparency, rewards for positive behaviour.

  3. In the case of tackling violence in an effective way. The whole nation has to work as one.

    • While the government has to take part of the blame, if I remember correctly, when there were suggestion to bring back the “death penalty”, learned lawyers who call themselves. HUMAN RIGHTS defenders intervened as this was an avenue to enrich themselves, taking cases to the PRIVY COUNCIL, a court based in the UK which uses .I believe a case example. called PRATT AND deter the death. penalty.. It was then suggested that we move to a regional court called THE CARIBBEAN COURT, anyone knows where that ended up? All these factors plus the afore mentioned contribute to the present situation in which we now find ourselves.
      We seriously need to make an effort to get around PRATT AND MORGAN and reconsider bringing back the Death Penalty as a deterrent.

    • Mervyn Skeete The death penalty isn’t a deterrent. The problem with Capital Punishment is that people with capital know that they will never get punished and poor people think they will never be caught.

    • Jo Ann even though I do trust what these articles say, when I use my imagination on Trinis, I dare say the threat of a death penalty night help but who knows, maybe I’m wrong.

    • Jo Ann I have read you link in its entirety.. My opinion is that the consensus arrive at was done in an environment which differs from ours and by people who have no clue as to the composition of our society, the conditions under which we live and most of all our mentality which is drastically different from the American society. I have a problem with these scientific researchers, they more often than usual use samples to which they can relate to. While I respect your reference…that’s just my take…read the last paragraph of the link…Radelet and Acovk……

  4. Without having read the article yet, it’s not just gun violence, its very kind of violence. Can you imagine witnessing a cutlass murder? We have long reached epidemic levels, not now. It’s just getting worse.

  5. He’s walking his area now. Why now….silly Trinidadians keep accepting trash and trash they continue electing to high office as the country degrades rapidly…

  6. It is a disgrace that the T&T government and the opposition are not tackling this in a bipartisan way and doing everything possible to stem gun crime and corruption. Citizens deserve much better.

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