One does not have to be an expert, a policeman, a prosecutor, a government official or a politicians to make changes in bringing down the violent crime rate says US congressman and former attorney general of the State of California Dan Lungren.
“As long as you believe you can make a change for the better, it can be done,” Lungren said.
It took, in recent years, a wedding photographer to lobby for legislation in the State of California to increase the penalties to 25 years for a convicted felon after two convictions, Lugren, the main speaker, at today's launch of the Caribbean Security Forum 2017 at the Hyatt Regency, Port of Spain said.
The photographer’s daughter was shot dead during a robbery by a felon who had several convictions and had recently been released from jail.
Lugren said that when the photographer engaged with law makers to increase the penalties for convicted felons, they literally questioned, “Who are you to come before us to tell us how to write law.” The photographer, he said, went through the process in the State of California, and despite opposition he won.
That law, he said, is one of the key elements that is helping to keep the crime rate down.
The Caribbean Security Forum is an initiative of the Global Business Leadership Forum and the Trinidad and Tobago Coalition Services Industry which will be held on September 21 and 22 in Port of Spain. “Our hope is that this forum would be one of the means to make that change” in TT, Lugren said.
The forum, which is being organised by the business community to share ideas on how the current crime and security issues were affecting the TT society in general, will involve non governmental organisations, civil society organisations and faith based organisations, among others.
The forum will tap into a number of local and international experts. Their objective is to “devise a plan that is workable for all stakeholders, that will be implemented by all committed parties.”
Prior to travelling, Lugren said, he took note of the US State Department’s status for American tourists in terms of safety and security in TT. It said, “critical” for crime.
That is the highest level of concern by the US State Department, he said, adding he was not there to define TT’s condition.
In speaking with some members of Government and the business community, he said, the consensus was that violent crime is a critical issue in the country.
Having worked to reform the criminal justice system in the State of California and one at the Federal level when the State was experiencing escalating violent crime across the board over a 25 year period, he said, changes had to be made in the way the criminal courts went about their works, aspects of the bail system were changed, and certain aspects in the definition of crime were also changed.
When the crime rate reached a plateau, he said, some people said, “Thank God it would not get worse.” However, on looking around, he said, the ordinary people were all prisoners in their own homes. Their homes were all barred to protect against home invasion by robbers.
Lugren said, he is not suggesting that what was done in the US should be done in TT. However, he said, that some things could be adapted, while other innovative measures could be taken to suit prevailing conditions.