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Saturday 21 September 2019
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Commentary

This is why we die

PAOLO KERNAHAN
PAOLO KERNAHAN

IN A knee-jerk response to a front-page editorial on crime, National Security Minister Stuart Young held a news conference on a Sunday. The information would easily have kept till Monday.

Meant to inspire confidence and seed calm, it did not. The State’s strategy to staunch ongoing bloodshed remains unclear. Somewhere along the winding path to the lawlessness of today, our sicarios became completely numb to the collateral damage of murdered bystanders.

So Minister Young didn’t have much to say on strategy or policy to curb violent crime. There have been utterances, though, both at the post macaroni-pie-and-stewed-chicken news conference and elsewhere that explain the Government’s anti-crime failures thus far. Simply put, we are prosecuting 20th century policing in the 21st century.

Recently, Young observed that police operations, presumably raids, roadblocks, and low flying ghetto birds, usually smother criminal activity. When operations are wound down, the minister conceded, violent crime surges again.

That remark is a window into the Government’s embarrassingly flawed thinking on crime.

If the people responsible for protecting us are chin-stroking at the idea that criminals cool their boots when the block is hot, then we are seriously in the soup.

The days of Burroughs-style kicking in doors and doling out black eyes to zessers have been over for a long time. Criminals are organised and increasingly ruthless in a fiercely competitive environment.

Meanwhile, our national security forces continue to march in place. There has been no discernible shift in tactics. Nor is there any evidence of a meaningful retooling of the service’s technological capacity to combat crime.

Raids and roadblocks, while not devoid of merit, are largely designed to quiet the public – not criminals. As illusions go, they work well for governments. After the headlines fade, no one reads about those who are released without charge. That’s why there is a revolving door at police headquarters (and President’s House) for Cedric Burke.

Then there is the legislation cure. The public was told the anti-gang bill would neuter the power of rampaging terror squads. Well, that piece of legislation is now law but criminality is worse than ever.

Young said charging someone under the legislation isn’t that simple; “these things take time.” That wasn’t the story when the Government demonised the Opposition for failing to back its terrible swift sword.

This administration seems to be making it up as it goes along, driven more by politics than pragmatism. The one exception to the rule, at least in the eyes of the public, appeared to be the CoP.

For all his faults, Gary Griffith has the bearing of a man who understands how to take the fight to the criminals.

What is needed immediately is an application of sophisticated technology networked across the national security services.

There should also be rigorous training to create a cadre of officers who can use this tech to gather intelligence and build watertight cases against citizens “known to the police.”

Griffith has exhibited an understanding of the impact technology can have on turning the tide against criminals.

Indeed, members of the public gathered around the lambent hope offered by “double G.”

For all his commitment and determination to call a spade a spade, though, killers don’t care about any of that guff. At any rate the commissioner’s running battle with the Government to finance his campaign against criminals is well documented. As such, the murders mount.

Our highest murder toll was recorded in 2008 at 550 deaths. The second highest, at 516, was just last year. TT looks on track to beat our 2008 high score by year’s end.

Still, Minister Young needs your help. He wants you to call Crime Stoppers and tell them about illegal guns in your area for a handsome reward. The State isn’t likely to get a rush of takers on that offer.

Notwithstanding assurances of anonymity, citizens are understandably leery of providing the authorities with careless whispers of shady movements observed through parted curtains.

There are criminals among cops and the killings of eyewitnesses to consider. Giving information may feel to some citizens like needlessly bringing forward an appointment to get shot. We all have a number so why jump the queue.

The fight against criminals has failed and will continue to fail. The Government is applying outdated ideologies and shortsighted tactics to a crime problem that has evolved. We are in the clutches of an administration that has demonstrated unambiguously, and in all spheres of governance, an inability to grow, learn and adapt with the changing times. This is why we die.

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