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STREET VIBE: Why does T&T Crime Stoppers only offer cash rewards for certain missing persons?

“In this small twin island state, where almost every Monday morning someone else goes missing—usually a young lady between the ages of 14 and 16 years old—it is indeed quite discomforting to see rewards being posted for assistance in only locating some people, while other families are ignored, neglected and abandoned often with not so much as a visit from the anti-kidnapping squad/unit.

“The implicit message is that some people are definitely worth more than others. For a society that begins each day reminding us that ‘every creed and race…’ the concept of equality is surely questionable—at best.”

The following Letter to the Editor questioning Crime Stoppers’ policy of offering financial rewards in only some missing person cases was submitted to Wired868 by Rudy Chato Paul, Sr of D’Abadie:

Photo: A Trinidad and Tobago Crime Stoppers notice requesting information on the whereabouts of Ria Sookdeo.
Photo: A Trinidad and Tobago Crime Stoppers notice requesting information on the whereabouts of Ria Sookdeo.

It was observed that “Crime Stoppers” has offered a reward of $50,000 for information leading to the location of Ms Ria Sookdeo, the young lady from Debe, who went missing two months ago; a noble effort indeed.

I have also been observing, quietly, from the sidelines, this organisation’s selective approach at offering rewards for person who ‘go missing.’

One cannot help but wonder about the criterion used to determine whether a reward will be offered or not, since rewards are not offered as incentives to locate information on all of the many persons who “go missing.”

In this small twin island state, where almost every Monday morning someone else goes missing—usually a young lady between the ages of 14 and 16 years old—it is indeed quite discomforting to see rewards being posted for assistance in only locating some people, while other families are ignored, neglected and abandoned often with not so much as a visit from the anti-kidnapping squad/unit.

The implicit message is that some people are definitely worth more than others. For a society that begins each day reminding us that ‘every creed and race…’ the concept of equality is surely questionable—at best.

Photo: Crime Stoppers chairman John Aboud is one of several local businessmen who controversially benefitted from acquiring Chaguaramas land from the government for a song.
Photo: Crime Stoppers chairman John Aboud is one of several local businessmen who controversially benefitted from acquiring Chaguaramas land from the government for a song.

For too long this nation has recognised that there are two distinct classes, or is as much easier acknowledged, two different types of justice systems: one for the well-to-do—real or perceived—and another for the ‘others.’

These arbitrary lines, in my analysis, are established from as early as one’s entrance into high school, whether one attends a prestige or government school. Some argue that it starts earlier.

However, most of one’s life chances are determined by this single factor, as we observe year in year out with the number of scholarships awarded to the respective schools. Yet, ritualistically, year in year out, those at the helm of the Ministry of Education seem surprised at such glaring disparities, and are often left ‘wondering’ about the causes.

The glaring disparities are also seen in the conditions of the neighbourhoods in which the “others” live, as opposed to the well-to-do. It is built into simple things like the conditions of the roads, access to water, and whether the police are seen as an occupying force or not; the enemy aka Babylon.

It is also seen in the State-run health institutions, where the chances of dying are dramatically amplified relative to the worst of the privately-run health care facilities. Ironically, it is often the same medical staff employed at both state-run and private health facilities.

Photo: Murdered prison escapee Hassan Atwell poses for the camera during his time as an inmate.
Photo: Murdered prison escapee Hassan Atwell poses for the camera during his time as an inmate.

And, of course, the prison system which is overcrowded with people of one social class, which merely serves to validate the view held by many of the well-to-do, that poor people are basically criminals; leaving many to theorise that ‘poverty causes crime.’

One cannot help but wonder if such reasoning is at the top of Crime Stopper’s list when seeking to ascertain and determine whether a reward should be offered in seeking the public’s assistance in locating particular persons; or whether making such a reward available is a complete waste of time?

One may recall Dana Seetahal’s case where a reward of TT$1M was offered—virtually overnight.

For the sake of clarity, I am in no way arguing that rewards cannot be used to incentivise and or gather information on persons who go missing. What I am questioning is the seemingly arbitrary manner in which this is done—I am going out on a limb here and assume that Crime Stoppers is being funded by State funds, our tax dollars.

Or is it that Crime Stoppers treat missing, young persons, like the police do: as mere run-aways? While a few young people may indeed “run away”, the rate at which persons go missing in this land is simply unacceptable.

Photo: Acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams. (Copyright 103FM)
Photo: Acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams.
(Copyright 103FM)

Assuming missing persons are run-aways, reflects the lethargy of the TTPS.

That human trafficking is real—despite claims by persons at the Ministry of National Security that it’s not—is insulting to families of victims who are left years later still trying to come to terms with their loved ones’ disappearance.

Most families have a difficult time coping with their loved ones’ disappearance. Their lives are never the same.

A colleague of mine, a mature professional female, disappeared without so much as a dime being offered by Crime Stoppers for information leading to her recovery, despite her vehicle being located and her credit cards found in the possession of a few persons.

It is high time that Crime Stoppers explain to this nation how our money is being spent and the criterion used.  Until then, citizens will have a difficult time recognising them as legitimate and professional.

Photo: Debe hairstylist Ria Sookdeo is believed to have been abducted.
Photo: Debe hairstylist Ria Sookdeo is believed to have been abducted.

 

About Rudy Chato Paul Sr

Rudy Chato Paul, Sr, is passionate about gardening, music and writing and boasts post-graduate certification in Anthropology, Criminology and Sociology. He also studied Theology, which is why he is actively seeking to make Trinidad a better place rather than waiting for divine intervention. 

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39 comments

  1. Hmm… Good observation. Eye opener.

  2. Perhaps if we knew how many persons are reported missing to the police and how many of those persons returned from “taking a break” we would have a better perspective. Do we really believe that all of the missing persons reports make it to the 7 o’clock news?

  3. So wait? People actually believe that those girls are missing?! ?????

  4. Actually Lasana Liburd I have been talking to a few police friends of mine, and what they are saying or discovering a lot of the young women between certain ages are playing games. Since the family doesn’t always tell the truth. Some even know where the persons are. Take for instance the express report, you putting people in stress. Use of resources and time all for fun and games. Why because your communication at home poor? We really need to deal with these situations differently.

  5. Are missing persons ever found alive by Trinidadian law enforcement or do they simply, turn up, are stumbled upon, return home on their own volition or are discovered decaying in the bush due to the olfactory senses of passersby?

  6. The families are the ones who raised the fund and pas s the fund to crime stoppers. It’s not Crime Stoppers funds. Those who can afford will offer their reward for their loved ones return.

  7. Bravo to a well written letter to the editor . I have one question . If a big drug block is operating in your area and the police know it , you report it to crime stoppers and guess which station is given the info to check it out ? Anyone care to guess ? Something is rotten with this Apple but we will see it only when the core is exposed .

  8. I asked myself the same questions as the author when I saw the reward.
    Thought the figure was low though, given the length of time she’s gone missing.

  9. “Assuming missing persons are run-aways, reflects the lethargy of the TTPS.

    That human trafficking is real—…”

    The author made an assumption there too though

  10. Leslie-Ann Boisselle do you know how this works? Or does Mel Lissa, Antoinette Sankar, Nerisha Mohammed or Wayne Mystar?

  11. Generally, a good read

    “These arbitrary lines, in my analysis, are established from as early as one’s entrance into high school, whether one attends a prestige or government school. Some argue that it starts earlier.”

    I beleive this is an underlying factor

  12. The question would be who put up the rewards??