The circumstances that foster crime in this country are a perfect storm but governments over the years seem to see no need to make the country safe for its citizens.
These are the sentiments of businesswoman Philippa Talma, 55, who was kidnapped outside her Maraval clothing boutique, Philippa London, 10 years ago and held for nine days until a ransom was paid.
On May 2, the anniversary of her kidnapping, Talma posted a picture of herself at a hospital after her release on Facebook. In addition to the picture she wrote:
“I was kidnapped outside of my store 10 years ago. On a busy Friday evening. My business was five months old. This image was taken in a hospital after my release on Mother’s Day. I had been beaten, blindfolded, gagged, hog-tied and held in a latrine in South Trinidad for nine days. This is what we look like. The victims of violent, unspeakable crimes. Before we resume our new ‘normal’ lives.
Ten years later. In the minute community of my shop:
Five customers have had a parent murdered, four of them in home invasions; two have lost husbands, both shot to death; another, a brother shot in his driveway; another, a mentally ill brother shot in police custody; another, a son shot outside of his fledgling business; a grandfather beaten to death with a brick; four raped; two kidnapped, a father and a brother; a father cutlassed in his home.
Lives stolen. From both the living and the dead. Surely no part of this resembles normal.
The general population lives in fear of becoming a victim of crime. What should be done? What is being done? Who shall we hold accountable?
Enough is enough.
This madness has got to end.”
She said her post was not about herself but those who were affected by violent crime. “I put that picture up to try and shock people into the fact that this is real and happening. There are other people out there who do not have a voice and they are ignored...What people don’t understand about crime is that many people never come back. And I don’t mean death. We are talking about the people who live, who will never work again, whose relationships fall apart, etc. What happens to these people?”
Talma said it was not just the victim and their family but the whole community was affected. She added that counselling for trauma took a long time because the emotional and psychological affects lasted a long time.
She said she was a strong person and eventually put the kidnapping and resulting injuries behind her to a certain extent because she had resources that allowed her to recover and return to her business. However, she said other victims of violent crime were scarred forever. “The majority of people who are victims of violent crime in this country are completely vulnerable and voiceless.”
Even before her kidnapping, Talma lived in fear in her own country. She said crime affected the poor and vulnerable more than the rich who had fancy cars, security officers, security cameras, and lived in gated communities.
She said she could only imagine the fear of people who had to walk along unlit tracks to get to their homes or had to put their children on public transportation.
She said she was outraged as she did not believe crime was important on the agendas of successive governments, and the problem definitely could not be solved by building skyscrapers or prisons.
“I’m sick and tired of the blame game between the political parties. How are you going to keep your population safe? We are not safe. This is an issue of national security. You (Government) have to have a plan. It is your job to keep us safe. Crime is a disease. You have to look for a cure. But nobody is doing anything about the root of crime.”
And what is the root? She said it was “the perfect storm” of poverty, inequity, an outdated and irrelevant education system, corruption, porous boarders, a lack of proper witness protection, no supervision for children in some schools because teachers do not attend, and more.
“There are entire families being murdered in this country... What happens to these children who are left behind? Children slip through the cracks and are not being protected. You can not recover unless you have resources and while the frameworks are there, we have no resources and no one upholding them.”
Talma said children were badly scarred by such events as well as family issues. She said many perpetrators were from broken homes, were abused, or unloved.
Therefore, she said the country needed skilled therapists and school counsellors, but there were too few. To remedy this, she believed the national scholarship programme should grant youths scholarships for things the country most needs, including psychology degrees.
“The bottom line is that governments seem to be more interested in staying in power than keeping us safe... People will continue to do what they could get away with and with our sluggish judicial system and lack of confidence in the police, the criminal elements in this country are now powerful.”