The call by three Opposition MPs for help in policing their communities should trigger concern by the TT Police Service (TTPS).
Dr Rishard Seecharan, MP for Caroni East, Dinesh Rambally, MP for Chaguanas West and Dr Lackram Bodoe, MP for Fyzabad expressed concern about the rise in crimes in their constituencies.
But what do the numbers say?
Between 2021 and 2022, according to official reports by the TTPS, robberies were the leading crimes increasing year-over-year from 1,643 incidents to 2,221. Burglaries and break-ins rose from 1,331 to 1,562 and general larceny from 1,500 to 1,707. Murders increased between 2021 and 2022 from 448 killings to 599.
TTPS’ national incident reports for the first three months of 2023 list robberies at 517, burglaries at 325, larceny at 395. There were 141 murders during that time.
The northern division reports the highest number of crimes, with the central and southern divisions following close behind.
These numbers have followed the same trends over the last five years, with rises in crimes in the northern division increasing alongside proportionally equivalent increases in central and south. In 2022, the central division reported 1,595 aggregated crimes, the southern division, 1,459, compared to the northern division’s count of 2,406. In 2019 those numbers were 1,759, 1,467 and 2,724, respectively. Overall incident numbers are increasing, but the distribution of criminal activity remains stable. The concern of Opposition MPs is likely to be triggered less by numbers than by the unease that increasingly bold killings bring to communities.
Children are also being endangered in these attacks. A three-year-old girl was untouched by the fusillade of bullets that killed Anderson Ross in St Helena at midday on Thursday.
Earlier that morning, a 12-year-old girl was shot in the head after gunmen killed her mother and her mother’s boyfriend at their Claxton Bay home. She remains hospitalised.
The efforts of the TTPS at Trainline Village, St Augustine might offer some insights into how it might pursue street-level policing on the wider scale to make an impact in the south and central divisions. Daily foot patrols in a village of just 20 households where six murders have happened since January are a start.
Northern division ACP Wayne Mystar noted abandoned shacks and structures at Trainline that he called on councillors to handle. Any effort to improve community policing will demand a better understanding of the triggers that fuel criminal activity in the southern and central divisions and the mobilisation of a collective effort to address them.
MPs and their councillors must be ready to support policing efforts by facilitating regular meetings with police representatives, offering collaborative analysis of the profiles of incidents and likely bad actors, while ensuring that poor infrastructure, including broken street lights, overgrown areas and general dilapidation do not support criminal activity.