Though all holiday weekends see a spike in criminal activity, the recording of five murders in one day as we begin the new year has justifiably raised fears of a repeat of last year’s crime wave.
Oh no, not again, please!
The year 2017 ended with 494 people being murdered across Trinidad and Tobago. While this does not surpass the record of 529 in 2008, it is a statistic in which no one can take comfort. Anyone who would gerrymander the figures to bring about positive spin need only look into the faces of all the families and communities now suffering due to the loss of a loved one. There is no joy in talking about a decrease in “serious crime.” One murder is bad enough.
We cannot go through another year like this. We need to do all we can to stamp out crime in all its manifestations, including white-collar crime. There is a perception that significant criminal actions may be linked to bigger actors behind the scenes.
In this regard, it will be interesting to see what the fate of the Government’s proposed anti-corruption legislation will be in the Parliament, especially after the Opposition’s decision not to support the anti-gang legislation. The provisions of the legislation should be properly ventilated so that members of the public can be engaged on its provisions. A wider debate may go some way towards making the Parliamentary debate more robust and could possibly put pressure on both sides to ensure a productive outcome. What cannot be countenanced, however, is another legislative failure as the violence gallops away.
But when we talk about fighting crime, we more readily accept that this involves giving law enforcement authorities the tools they need to resolve long-standing difficulties. There needs to be continued strengthening of our intelligence capabilities, better management of our personnel and more effective management of cases, both pre-trial and at trial. The capacity of the Judiciary is a matter of serious concern. For far too long, the overburdened courts have failed to keep up with the requirements of justice. If the State will not give the Judiciary the resources it needs, then it must empower the Judiciary to manage its own resources independently.
Yet, a great deal of crime relates to matters that begin in the home. Domestic violence remains a scourge in our land. Despite legal tools being available to those affected by abuse, people are still dying because of the rage of their partners.
There is a role for NGOs and religious organisations to place. As a society, we also need a profound cultural shift that stands up for gender equality. We need to stop perpetuating false notions of male entitlement and the idealisation of macho violence and brute force. Whichever front attains priority, we must ultimately tackle crime holistically and effectively. We just cannot go on like this.