Last week, in the course of the latest Parliamentary debate on crime, talk of ‘big fish’ came up again in the speech of the Minister of National Security, Stuart Young.
First, let’s set out the context. The terms of the Opposition motion for debate asked the Senate: “to take note of the Government’s failure to arrest the increasing and unacceptable levels of criminal activity in Trinidad and Tobago and to table a cogent Strategic Crime Prevention Plan to address the unacceptable levels of crime facing the citizenry in Trinidad and Tobago.”
Party politics and engagement with the terms of the motion required the Minister to take on the assertion that criminal activity was increasing. He produced ‘the latest police figures’ which showed serious crime incidents were down from 6,620 over the January to June, 2018 period to 5,712 in the same period this year.
Statistically this may provide an answer to the Opposition’s assertion that crime is increasing, but it is a completely unhelpful fact when the entire country lives in constant fear of violent personal attack, frequently leading to murder.
The statistics are also unhelpful unless one has data to refute the widespread belief that many citizens no longer bother to report a crime or to co-operate with the police—not least of all, for fear of reprisal against them if they do.
Reference to the fear of reprisal is not a debating point. It is a grim reality evidenced, for example, by a recent road rage victim, whose assault was visually recorded, but who is reportedly ‘not pressing charges’. Many citizens also know of ‘hold up’ incidents not reported or not pursued.
More blatantly, the follow-up to last week’s murder of a young mother, on her way from a primary school function with her 12-year old son, is the suggestion that it was a ‘hit’ directed from inside the prison. There next followed brutally teasing headlines that cell phones had been seized in the Maximum Security Prison which may have been used to order the ‘hit’. Nothing more has been heard about this.
The use of the prison as an office for inmates to conduct business appears to be an ongoing issue incapable of resolution and one in which there must be law enforcement complicity. Mind you, when it is so easy to have someone killed, it must be difficult to resist demands from jailhouse kingpins.
It is obvious to all but the politicians, that there is more than simply numbers of crimes at the core of the issue of unacceptable levels of crime. It is unacceptable that murder can be committed with impunity because successive Governments have presided over failed systems of law enforcement characterised by a woeful crime detection rate. They have made murder easy.
Likewise, the systems that support criminal activity have an easy ride. The financiers and facilitators of the drug and human trafficking trade are rarely the focus of official debate and discussion.
Minister Young’s reference in the Senate to ‘big fish’ was linked to the use of the anti-gang legislation to obtain information, which he promised: “will lead to charges and big fish being taken down in the next set of operations before year’s end.”
Perhaps he has taken off the blinkers which did not permit previous Governments to see the devils in disguise who finance the deadly trades. Those ‘living a criminal life’ profiting from illegal drugs, firearms and human trafficking are not confined to the ‘soldiers’ in the gangs and the ‘dons’ who give them their instructions.
Here is something that currently fascinates me. Some months ago Latinas were rescued from captivity in houses in upscale areas and a foreign national said to be the boss of those flesh trade dens was reportedly brought before the Courts but the case has disappeared from the news.
Has his case been called and adjourned? Has it been quietly dropped? Will it be allowed to slip away in alleged Uncle Khalid style?
That flesh trade boss is an apparent big fish on whose case we need an update before we can believe any fresh promises that big fish will soon be caught and punished.