No, no Mr Jacob, Acting Commissioner of Police, you cannot expect us to be patient and bear with the police in tackling crime.
During the 20 years of these weekly columns, violent crime—particularly murder and the impunity with which it is committed—has been a high profile subject.
As long ago as May 2003, I specifically categorised violent crime as “numbers one, two, three and four on my list of pressing matters in our country”. Even then I asserted: “Number one is the murder rate. Numbers two and three are a sub text of number one, namely gang warfare and domestic violence. Number four is the widespread damage being done to small business by robbery and violence.”
Nearly 20 years later, another spate of murders were described in the Trinidad Express newspaper on Wednesday last. There were 13 murders between the preceding Friday and Monday and five more murders on the Tuesday immediately following. That triggered Jacob to make his plea for our patience. More murders followed subsequently.
Jacob also lamented the abandonment of children by their fathers who do not maintain them.
“Pay your maintenance, mind your children, see about your home—because what you are doing is creating an avenue for gang leaders to play a part in your child’s life.”
This lament of Jacob is a variation on the Prime Minister’s lament about poor parenting. Both laments are blind to the necessity to support parenting in disadvantaged communities with enlightened social development policies and reform of an education system, within which there are schools that are training grounds for destructive attitudes in children victimised by the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA).
We soon enter the 60th anniversary of Independence in despondency and fear, at the heart of which there are two monumental failures. One is the Police Service’s failure to apprehend and prosecute the murderers and the gang leaders and associates routinely described as “known to the police” after they die by the gun.
Do the police not have eyes on these “known” guys, by means of human as well as electronic surveillance?
By way of a recent example of “known to the police”, on the same Express page that reported Jacob’s pleas for patience, there was news of the murder of “an associate of a Laventille gang leader” who was in a vehicle which was fired upon. The leader escaped serious injury.
The report quoted the police as saying that “it was not the first time an attempt was made on the life of the gang leader as he had escaped with minor injuries when gunmen attacked two vehicles along Wrightson Road, Port of Spain, in June last year.”
Jacob also stated that “the majority of guns and assault rifles used in crime in Trinidad and Tobago originate from United States and are brought in through legitimate ports of entry.” Incredibly, the ports are statutory authorities or State enterprises.
Equally free of the threat of apprehension, the copper thieves revelled in their banditry. The Government eventually responded with a reactionary and cruelly disruptive ban on scrap iron exports.
Just as monumental as the failure of the police to catch the criminals, is the failure of successive governments to deal with the underlying socio-economic conditions that contribute to the development of criminal elements.
Successive governments also failed to put up campaign finance barriers to mitigate the corruption of party politics by big business. There is further cause for concern about the intersection of politics and the big fish in the trafficking of drugs, guns and humans and in the receiving of stolen items for export—such as copper and subsidised diesel fuel, in the now forgotten diesel fuel racket.
In 2003, I warned against the accommodation of both the grassroots bandits and the “devils in disguise in our Westwood Parks” as well as in enterprises controlled or engaged in by the State.
I clearly stated that we would come to “a situation in which the laws of the land would have legal validity but cease to be effective and there would be a breakdown in ordered legal control in the face of banditry or anarchy.”
And so it has come to pass.