You cannot arrest your way out of the serious problem facing your communities, which is crime. This was the recurring theme presented by Cedric Washington last week at the Caribbean Security Forum held at the Hyatt Regency, Port of Spain. He gave a lengthy presentation about gang violence, its nature and strategies to address it.
“We have the same problem as you do in TT, as it pertains to murder, detection and solving these crimes, but what helped us in California was the use of GPS monitoring for offenders, covert social media accounts, covert operations and sentence enhancement,” said Washington, a police officer for the past 26 years with the LAPD.
In California ,there is an act titled, California Street Terrorism Enhancement Prevention Act, which gives law enforcement the opportunity to arrest a person and then enhance their sentence by a lot of time.
“For instance if we arrest him for robbery, murder or rape if we can prove that he is a gang member then we can enhance their sentence significantly, keeping him off the streets,” Washington said.
“These strategies can possibly be used by TT to deter criminal activity, but law enforcement abusing their power in any way will not solve the problem,” Washington added.
Wendell Wallace, local Barrister and Criminologist also presented on strategies to address gang related crime.
His presentation titled Understanding, Responding and Treating with the Threat of Gangs in TT highlighted the prevalence of gangs in TT.
According to Wallace’s research there are heavy concentrations of gangs in Port-of-Spain, Western Division, North-Eastern Division and Central Division.
“In terms of the prevalence of gangs we will always have conflicting figures as it pertains to the exact number of gangs,” said Wallace.
He explained that there is a large cross-section of youths who are involved in petty gang activity and the serious gang activities are perpetrated by a small group of individuals within society.
“Crime and gang activity are social problems, this is important because we need to understand gang characteristics before we can effectively treat with the problem. If you have an improper diagnosis in terms of the levels of gangs in TT then proposed solutions will not work,” said Wallace.