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Daly Bread: Are the malls becoming crime hot spots? T&T’s state of anxiety is growing

Two ladies in the early afternoon—to which we refer colloquially as after lunch—park a vehicle in an area, not isolated from one of its entrances, and enter a shopping mall.

An hour later, as they are exiting the mall, they see a man standing adjacent to their vehicle. They have the presence of mind to go back into the mall and think. They peer again at the vehicle and the situation is unchanged.

Photo: A woman looks around nervously at a car park.

They take advice and find a security guard employed by the mall. Accompanied by the guard they start their walk back to the vehicle. The man immediately gets into a vehicle parked alongside theirs and drives hurriedly away.

Just a week before, there had been a well-publicised incident of a mall shopper who had gone to the grocery with family members and was caught unawares.  He was held up by persons, who reportedly emerged from a vehicle parked adjacent to his. The response of the police after that event was ‘observe your surroundings’.

The above two incidents are not two isolated incidents. There have been reports of hold-ups and carjackings at other malls.

We, ordinary citizens, have long been forced to observe self-imposed curfews and to live and carry out the unavoidable routines of life in an anxious state, ‘observing our surroundings’. These mall incidents will inevitably pile on more anxiety.

It is not an anxiety felt by our rulers, safe inside their blue-lighted vehicles, but it is likely the mall hold-ups will escalate and become a new happy hour for the bandits because these crimes will also be committed with little fear of apprehension on the part of the bandits.

We are exposed and defenceless because of the abysmally low crime detection rate. Let’s be plain: the new police high command has made no difference to this failure. Life in our Republic is murderous and unsafe for the ordinary citizen, even more so than it was when I first became a columnist.

Photo: Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith (left) and Minister of National Security Stuart Young.
(Copyright TTPS)

This was the situation as I described it more than 15 years ago. I asked in 2003: “if killing is done with absolute impunity in broad daylight, to whom should we look to rectify the culture of impunity?”

I warned that conventional social order would be overthrown; and so it has been, because going about routine activities are risky business, subject, as indicated, to self-imposed curfews and high anxiety.

Those responsible for law enforcement talk endlessly, but the situation we face is unrelenting. They always want more tools ‘to wage war’—no doubt because they have been unsuccessful in dealing with crime. I recall in late 2014, there were boasts that there was success in the war as a result of the deployment of the army in certain areas. If there was success around that time, as touted, it certainly was not lasting.

There will reportedly soon be debate in Parliament about additional bail restrictions. I am generally firmly against restriction of civil liberties as a substitute for efficient police work, which we certainly do not have. However, for charges relating to possession of automatic and assault weapons, the Opposition, who failed in crime reduction when in office, may want to consider the havoc wreaked in the USA by such weapons and give way on this one.

Let’s be clear however that the heavier ‘war’ legislation relates to the A-list criminals, gangs and their financiers and sources of finance. The Government has admitted that these sources of finance include State-funded programmes; but has any step been taken towards the clean-up of this?

The Attorney General, who loves to give us the war talk, should expend some of his torrents of words on updating us on this vital clean up.

Photo: Attorney general Faris Al-Rawi.

By contrast, the safety of the ordinary citizen in the streets, their homes, and now in malls, is imperilled, by the B-list hand gun bandits, skilled in crimes of opportunity, who have no reason to consider that getting caught is a serious risk to their ‘livelihood’.

Who will protect us as crime spreads its largely unchecked tentacles further and further?

About Martin Daly

Martin Daly
Martin G Daly SC is a prominent attorney-at-law. He is a former Independent Senator and past president of the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago. He is chairman of the Pat Bishop Foundation and a steelpan music enthusiast.

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