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Sunday 20 October 2019
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Callous, clueless crime fight

With all my work in prison, and all my attempts to understand crime in Trinidad and Tobago, I still cannot fathom the anger, hatred and utter disregard for human life that we witness in this country on any given day. Neither can I fathom Government’s callousness and cluelessness in tackling the problem.

No one is safe. We have known that for quite some time. Every time we think we have faced the unimaginable, some crime shocks us at a whole new level.

This week it was the brutal murders of two elderly women, Dr Claire Broadbridge and Ramdevi Singh. For me, this is most shocking because elderly women conjure up images of loving, caring, innocent and nurturing grandmother figures.

How could anger and hate possibly touch them?

As usual, people are bringing up invaluable points about crime, which I am afraid Government pays no attention to.

In Jense La Verde’s story in the Trinidad Guardian, the former British High Commissioner to TT, Arthur Snell, said, “If around five per cent of murders result in criminal convictions, murders will occur with horrific banality.”

We all know this, yet, as Dr Broadbridge’s son, Stephen, said, we don’t hold government accountable for the appalling statistics on solving crime in this country. We don’t make enough noise and demand that elected officials solve problems. Snell is right in saying that “society has to recognise its responsibilities at all levels.” Indeed, the poor do face “…constant humiliation and belittling (in a place) where Sea Lots exists only hundreds of metres away from the Hyatt Hotel.” Yes, Ambassador Snell, “anger and cynicism (do) flourish like a malignant cancer” in this country.

For me, what was most telling in former Ambassador Snell’s comments was this statement: “Every little piece of support, capacity building and training the British Government offered to help tackle this problem (in my time) was met with, at best, limited enthusiasm and at worst obstruction.”

This is how government in Trinidad and Tobago — regardless of the party in power — is perceived by individuals in this country and outside of this country. In my years of working in the prison system, I have felt this lack of support; this lack of caring.

On the ground level — in the trenches — there is much support for the educational and skill-based programmes I have introduced in prisons.

Those working in administrative positions have been overwhelmingly supportive and forward thinking, but when I get to the level of the Ministry of National Security, I have the same feeling as Snell.

The Ministry of Community Development is amazingly supportive of my programmes while the Ministry of National Security has treated them with scant courtesy. The Ministry of Community Development provides tutors for my skill-based programmes and representatives even show up for my events they have not sponsored.

On the other hand, I had to beg the Ministry of National Security for a paltry sum to offer a PVC furniture construction class at the Port of Spain Prison. There has been no support for the tiling course inmates are looking forward to taking.

Once again, the Ministry of Community Development paid for the tutor, but the Ministry of National Security cannot see the wisdom in offering this programme to inmates who now re-enter society with not much more than a pack of hatred for the years the court system kept them in prison waiting for their trials. I have found the Ministry of National Security to be uncaring, unsupportive and unimaginative or, as Snell put it, “...at best, (operating with) limited enthusiasm; at worst obstruction.”

So tell me, how do we expect to fight crime in this country?

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