THE Prime Minister is appealing to the population not to lose hope as murders in TT crossed 600 for 2022. Dr Rowley made his appeal in his New Year's Message to the nation, which was released on Saturday.
"In 2022, we continued to experience the relentless assault of the criminal element, resulting in a record number of murders, facilitated, and bolstered by other alarming incidents of crime, such as persistent gun-running, institutional corruption and facilitation as well as the ever-present growth of gang activity in many parts of the country."
But Rowley said, "It is clear that the scale and frequency of these negative strands of the fabric of our society require constant review and more robust targeted responses if we are to suppress and eradicate them from our future."
Against this background, the Government has committed to making making 2023 a year of public review, consequent overhaul and redoubling of its efforts to fight crime on several fronts.
Rowley identified some of the areas where increased focus on fighting crime will be placed by Government.
"The utilisation of the considerable resource allocation to this sector. The public health consideration of criminal conduct in our society. A renewed attempt at parliamentary intervention in support of the work of agencies and institutions. A continued identification and urgent support for 'at risk' groups and expansion of the many youth development programmes. Improvements in sustained and effective law enforcement."
National security received the third highest allocation – $5.8 billion – in the 2022/2023 budget last September.
He promised the public will have an input in all of these efforts going forward.
"We start off these approaches and commitments with a series of public conversations in early 2023, to be followed by the necessary interventions as deemed necessary."
Rowley said, "Some people may feel justified in seeing our existence only through the prism of the negative lenses, and believe that runaway criminality is the hallmark and highlight of our efforts."
Reiterating that TT's circumstances when it comes to crime are not unique, Rowley urged citizens to remember there is still a lot of good in this country.
He appealed to citizens, "As we cross over into the new year that we, individually, acknowledge fully our civic responsibilities."
Rowley said 2023 is "a good time for citizens to conscientiously demonstrate that desired recognition of the civic responsibilities for their lives, their actions and against each other."
He cited crime as an example.
"For instance, recognise crime as a public emergency in which every citizen has a part to play. If you see something harmful or threatening, say something."
In July, after three men were killed in a confrontation with police in Port of Spain and another police killing happened in Morvant, Rowley said, "I think in TT the time has come for us to declare violence as a public health emergency and we need to find solutions for treating with violence in our population."
He made the comment during a news conference at Piarco International Airport on July 3, before leaving to attend a Caricom heads of government meeting in Suriname.
When asked at that time to explain the definition of declaring violence as a public health emergency, Rowley said he would leave that for another time.
Responding to a question in the Senate on July 4, National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds said Rowley had not declared violence as a public health emergency on July 3.
"I understood the Prime Minister to have said that sometime in the near future, he considered that it might be a useful thing for TT to consider crime and violence being treated as public health issues."
Rowley reiterated, "We have established safe channels where your information can assist."
He urged citizens to "hold up your patriotic and ethical duty to play an active role in society, by showing your participation and advancement for the common good of TT."