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Seven steps to effective patrols by the police

Ask most citizens of T&T what their primary concern is and they will say it’s security; not who is spying on whom or who owns what house. Since the People’s Partnership Government came into office, serious crime has continued unabated. The new Police Commis- sioner has not made any impact. The fact is no matter how much PR work is done to make it appear the Government has a handle on crime, criminal activity will continue to rise until the Government puts in place structured police patrols in our communities. In the early 1990s, New York City was rampant with crime. The then new mayor, David Dinkins, embarked on a crime plan entitled “Safe City—Safe Streets.” That plan placed hundreds of police officers on the streets on patrol. When Rudy Giuliani took as mayor, he enhanced the programme to place additional patrols and paid attention to non- violent crimes like loitering.

The result was a great reduction in criminal activity. The initiatives of these two mayors are seen as the turning point in reducing criminal activity in New York City. In T&T the primary reason for the continued rise in criminal activity is the fact that criminals believe they will not be caught. The criminals know that arbitrary police patrols and sporadic concentration of policemen in areas where criminals are reported to operate is not enough to deter them. They also know that there is no organised structured approach to dealing with criminal activity. In spite of the constant cry for structured patrols, something that the new Police Commissioner is familiar with, there continues to be no effort to put such a plan into effect. It is possible that the authorities do not know how to structure these patrols. These are the steps that must be followed:

1. Designate the patrol borders. For example, one area can be the Beetham Highway on the southeast on the link road between Morvant junction and the Barata-ria roundabout, west along the Eastern Main Road and west on the flyover in Laventille. That can be one patrol block with two cars on patrol with two officers 24 hours a day. It means that at all times dispatchers can rely on the two patrol cars to respond to criminal activity in that area. Another block can be the Queen’s Park Savannah, the block between High and Coffee Streets in San Fernando and so on. These patrols blocks can be numbered and the numbers of the blocks assigned to the cars.  

2. Hire civilians to monitor the patrols and dispatch additional emergency response cars. Calls to 999 emergency must be monitored, recorded and acted upon by civilians working for the Ministry of National Security. That will free up police personnel for patrols.

3. Reduce the number of police personnel doing administrative work by employing civilians to perform these duties and increase the police presence on patrol.

4. Stop the use of flashing lights when on patrol as these only alert criminals about the police presence and there is no element of surprise. Flashing lights should only be used when responding to an emergency, when pulling a vehicle over, or when escorting vehicles.

5. Police patrols must be a daily activity. Police, when reporting to duty, must know that their duty for the day is to patrol a certain block and not to sit in the station and wait for something to happen. Each officer must have a patrol area assigned to him or her so that in time he or she will not only be familiar with their block but the people will know the officers on patrol. This will eventually lead to the development of much need trust.

6. Introduce GPS tracking technology to monitor the patrol cars.

7. Integrate the many vehicle recovery security units and technology with the local police patrols. These seven steps to effective structured police patrols must be implemented if T&T is to ever make any impact on crime. The ten-point crime plan offered by the DPTT is another area the Government must examine and implement. Until the Government aggressively and urgently wages war on crime, citizens will not seek to invest in new businesses or participate in nation building. Crime is the most important issue facing this country for the last ten years. It led to the demise of the PNM and can have the same effect on the PP Government if left to fester.

Steve Alvarez
Political leader, DPTT


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