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Crime, security and public safety

Friday, December 25, 2015

The year 2015 is nearly at an end. Soberly, we ask: How did we perform on matters of crime, security and public safety and what were some of the major issues? Unforgettable was when key road arteries in T&T were blocked by the “total policing” efforts on March 21 by some members of the police service. There was much public outrage. New procedures for roadblocks were quickly announced and an official investigation was conducted.

Reported serious crime rates are decreasing when compared to 2014—though still unacceptably high. However, for the serious crime of murder, the final 2015 figure may tip last year’s 409. We definitely need a firmer grip here.

The array of strategies implemented to reduce other crimes should be modified as the patterns shall change. Strategies should always be ahead of criminals. And, such strategy-formulation should involve all stakeholders as the police cannot carry this burden alone. Meaningful avenues must be created to facilitate this. 

We also have to be wary about of the “dark figure of crime” or unreported crimes. When added to reported crimes, the “real” crime situation is worsened. Measures to capture unreported crimes should be initiated to bring all criminals to book.  

This year saw brazened attacks on members of the protective services several of whom lost their lives. Issues of officers possessing and wearing proper protection, adequate training for officers when responding to dangerous situations and heated discussions on whether to allow officers to take home guns were prominent. Compensation to families of killed officers was proposed—a step in the right direction. 

When the final figures are tallied, retrievals of arms and ammunitions as well as drug seizures for 2015 may be higher than 2014. Not only should these efforts be significantly boasted, but the public deservedly wants more arrests, prosecution and conviction of perpetrators on such matters. 

Drugs and guns courts were proposed for years. 2015 did not see any materialisation. They can certainly ease up the overburdened judicial system where it takes several years for matters to be completed. Several recommendations like new court rules, expansion of the family court system,

were implemented thus far but we may need much more as the Chief Justice outlined, for example, review of the death penalty, decriminalisation of marijuana, independent funding for judiciary, review of need for jury trials, etc. 

One thing many members of the public are happy about is the work of the Professional Standards Bureau of the police service.

They have made a number of arrests re police misconduct. This unit should be beefed-up with the requisite resources. 

Still troublesome in 2015 was the continued acting appointment of the commissioner of police for over two years. Plans to reform the process were announced but we await urgent action.  

Highly visible were school violence and bullying inside schools and in surrounding areas. The use of camera phones and social media were noticeable in bringing these incidents to the public’s fore. A new discussion on the use of cameras in schools as it is currently a “banned” item should be held.

The findings of forensic pathologists came up for much public scrutiny for some high public-interest matters. The Forensic Science Centre needs to review its internal policies and practices that shall also strengthen our confidence on this critical aspect of our criminal justice system.

For years, we have been hearing about legislation to regularise the private security industry. In 2015, this was not attended to again. There are many institutions and people functioning in this massive industry without appropriate training and certification. 

Road deaths for 2015 so far are similar to 2014 though still too high.

Current patrols, media messages and the number of breathalyser tests do not seem to reduce the numbers fast enough. Other strategies needed include speed guns, increased fines, use of cctv system, seizing licences of repeat offenders, teaching proper road traffic practices in schools, increased breathalyser testing by larger pool of people, etc.  

The public has not seen in any notable way people and organisations being held for white-collar crimes and corruption. With financial troubles ahead in 2016, the safety and security of our people should remain a high priority. This includes training and retooling personnel to be on top of their game. Some criminologists argue that crimes increase in economic downturns when some people choose to adapt in illegal ways. Let us stop them! 

The Miami Dade College School of Justice and the CISPS are hosting an international practical training on “Surveillance and Counter-Surveillance” from January 13-15, 2016. For further information on this and other courses: 223-6999, 223-6968.


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