‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.’
This was the adage used by Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles as he sought support from the residents of Tobago East for the National Crime Prevention programme.
“It is an initiative that we must embrace, it is an initiative that we at the level of the THA are comfortable with and that we would be participating in wholeheartedly. This is not about the police, in essence this is first of all about our own personal safety and more importantly, this is about the protection of our island in respect of our image and our brand. So that when we in fact talk about clean, green, safe and serene, we live it, and as we move forward in respect of our tourism thrust that we are not thwarted by issues relative to crime and criminality,” he said.
The programme is to be officially launched on August 24..
Speaking at a public outreach at the Betsy’s Hope Multi-purpose Facility on Tuesday night, Charles said the programme was designed to organise, mobilise and collaborate on strategies to deal with crime. He said the NCPP must be seen as another crime fighting measure and a preventative mechanism.
Charles also reiterated a need to address “a challenging social situation” involving young persons in TT in the context of dealing with crime.
“Many of them are leaving schools prematurely or even if they are leaving at the time they are expected to leave, they are leaving poorly skilled and poorly qualified. I was saying that if we do not address this phenomenon, then and only then we may surely lose the fight on crime. Statistics will show that many of the unsavoury or deviant activities that are carried out, are carried out mainly by young persons and young males at that,” he said.
He made these comments as he insisted he was misconstrued by the media at the first public outreach at the Canaan/ Bon Accord Community Centre one week ago.
“I indicated that it is possible, it may appear that we were losing the fight on crime and the next thing I know is that I saw a headline in the newspapers and it read, ‘Charles: We are losing fight on crime.’
“I don’t understand how I could be misinterpreted so easily, because I thought that all things being equal, I was very clear, and I suspect that I was reasonably lucid and therefore it would have posed no difficulty for the average listener to understand far less for those who are involved in media and communications,” he said.
Charles added that at that first public oureach he was “essentially” making the point that in Trinidad and Tobago, there is an inclination or a predisposition to highlight criminal activities.
“If you were to open any newspaper on a daily basis or even listen to the news, they usually lead with some criminal activity. In the context of our society in Tobago, where we are principally a tourism-based economy, I was making the point that one has to be careful lest we create the environment and generate the perception that we are an unsafe destination.
“More than that, whilst I didn’t make that comparison, I’ll make it today… we like to compare ourselves with Grenada for example and St Lucia in respect of their thrust to tourism and the relative success that they seem to be having. If you were to access one of the Bajan newspapers, you would see activities relating to crime somewhere on pages 3, 4, 5, or 6; it is not on their front pages because they understand and they recognise that in a global environment that we now exists, news travels all over the world and on the basis of what comes out of your country, potential visitors will form impressions and on the basis of those impressions, they would make their decisions in respect of which island or islands or which country they must visit to spend their monies,” he said.
Charles also warned that as development continues in Tobago, the island will become attractive to migrant populations, and called for diligence by Tobagonians.
“Do we really know the characters of these persons that we gladly accommodate, do we have any idea as to their profile because our good traits can also work against us. We are quite a trusting people, and, in that regard, we may not engage in the level of diligence required and we may end up harbouring criminals or would be criminals,” he said, adding that Tobagonians must position themselves to provide the intelligence needed to deal with such a situation.