WITH LESS than three weeks to go before the end of the year, the murder toll has surpassed the 500 mark, making it the first time in this decade so many murders have occurred.
The last time the 500 threshold was passed was in 2009, when 509 murders were reported. The only other year was 2008, when a record of 550 was set.
It must be acknowledged, however, that the efforts of Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith have borne some fruit. Up until July, the rate of murder had been so high it was feared a new record would be set by the end of 2018. But in the last four months, homicides decreased by more than ten per cent over the same period last year.
But we agree with Griffith that the figures remain unacceptable and welcome the decision to accept foreign expert assistance which will see new strategies being adopted, as well as a review of so-called cold cases. This assistance could make a big dent in the figures come 2019.
However, the economic situation will be an even bigger challenge.
The murder rate plays into a vicious cycle. Around the world, real GDP growth is associated with fewer homicides, suggesting poor economic performance has a direct bearing on the crime rate. At the same time, the crime rate is a key factor that can influence investment needed to boost an economy. The retrenchment of hundreds of workers at several state entities has created a pool of unemployed people and placed pressure on many families and households all over the country.
Added to this are the dire projections of some economists, who foresee another international economic crisis similar to the one that occurred in 2008. Storm clouds are gathering and the world’s financial system is unprepared, the deputy head of the International Monetary Fund warned this week.
TT’s fragile recovery could be set back. Already tourist arrivals are down for the third year in a row. While some tourism stakeholders have downplayed the role of crime and violence, the crime situation certainly does not make the job of marketing TT any easier.
It remains the case that the majority of murders are committed using firearms. While this country had the highest number of gun seizures in the region last year (1,026) there is more work to do in this regard.
Helping citizens overcome the prevailing sense of fear remains the most challenging aspect of Griffith’s mandate. Because murders are now taking place all over the country, that sense of fear has deepened.
In this regard, it’s worth repeating that fighting crime is not just a matter for the police. It is up to every citizen to partner with the police to make our country safer.