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FACES OF CRIME by Cecil Paul

posted 30 Aug 2011, 09:11 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 1 Sept 2011, 01:46 by Dave Smith ]

For some fifteen years Trinidad and Tobago citizens of all ages, genders, classes, religions and cultures have been plagued with constant violent crimes. From brutal gang on gang killings, white-collar corruption in the public sector, blatant and deadly violation of traffic laws, kidnappings as a criminal industry, robberies as an occupation and brutal crimes of passion that belie our humanness.

Despite the efforts of successive Governments, increased policing, the establishment of new security and intelligence units and the introduction of the military, our country has failed miserably to reduce crime to an acceptable level. Trinidad and Tobago is now ranked behind South Africa and Jamaica as having the highest crime rates in the world.

Our people live in constant fear and security vigilance is now part of our routine daily routine. We have been living in steel jails for many years. We are increasingly installing electronic security apparatus and more and more gated communities are springing up throughout the country.

We accuse all of our police commissioners, national security ministers and police officers of inefficiency in handling the grave crime environment. We have now resorted to the hiring of foreigners to lead our police service. This re-colonisation of the police service also appears to be a failure in effectively dealing with crime.


Is it not time enough for our society to have a series of national conversations on the root causes of the high incidence of crime in Trinidad and Tobago, then develop and implement a plan of action to bring civility to our nation and provide the protection and security we deserve as law abiding and taxpaying citizens. This is the responsibility of our governments. For the past fifteen years successive governments have failed our people on the major national issue of crime prevention and control.


Let us look at some of the root causes of crime in Trinidad and Tobago:


The gang warfare and killings are fuelled by the importation of narcotics into the country. Who imports these drugs costing millions of dollars and paid for in US$? What state agencies and security bodies are charged with preventing these illegal narcotics from being smuggled into the country?


International law enforcement agencies have also been linked to the drug trade with the high incidence of kidnappings for ransom and kidnappings for human trafficking. In recent times many Trinbagonians have disappeared into thin air with hardly any trace.  Our young people are daily lured by big money into the drug trade and the resultant killings and in the process increasing the crime rate.


The big question is why are the law enforcement agencies not going after the drug lords and barons in a small country like ours, where everyone knows who is who? Are these criminals more powerful than the state? Or are these big criminals part of our governments and are untouchables?


Our Political Parties are financed by business people as a form of INVESTMENT IN POLITICS. A victory for their Party results in government contracts and appointments where they reap big profits from their initial investment. They breach tenders procedures, overprice on these contracts and pay large kickbacks to their political benefactors.

As a result billions of dollars are stolen from the people and needed investments in training, education and job creation are cut back. These corrupt politicos and business tycoons are almost never brought to justice. This encourages the illicit practices to continue and increase. It has now become a normal and an accepted part of our political culture.


This creates poverty, unemployment and a condition of unsuitability for employment among our young people. Our youth question this white collar approach to robbery and feel entitled to get their piece of the pie by any means necessary. These conditions are well known for facilitating Crime.


Our politicians solicit bully votes, and engage security/muscle protection from our gang leaders during election periods. In exchange these “community leaders” are put in control of social programmes in various economically depressed areas. It is said that the income from non-existent workers are used to finance drugs purchases. Poor youths are lured into the drug trade with violent crime being a by-product.


Our education system has failed the vast majority of the poor youths of our country who cannot fit in or pay for the extra tuition required to keep pace with the children whose parents can afford to provide the extra lessons. 

Our education system mostly caters to the rich and a small percentage of academically so called “bright” children. Some of the others feel isolated, resort to bullying, stealing, violent acts and selling drugs to their school-mates.


As a result, a sizeable number of our children at primary and secondary school enter the world of work with inadequate basic skills in reading, creative writing and mathematics. Worst of all, they are conscious of their shortcomings, develop low self-esteem and are angry at society. Their hate is evident when you come into contact with them. They become easy prey for the criminal gangs where they are accepted and feel wanted, despite their shortcomings. These deprived children end up becoming involved in drug- peddling, even at their former schools then graduate to robberies and gang killings.


While their numbers may be a small percentage of the school population, we have seen that they have created a nightmare of violent crimes for the majority of the population. Our young people, barely out of school, commit the most violent crimes. This is an indicator of the failure of our education system and a relationship with the high incidence of crime among our youth.


The prisons have been converted into a thriving business enterprise of demand and supply. You get anything or anyone you want at a price you are willing to pay in a captive monopoly business. Drugs are sold in our prisons, so that crimes are committed in the prisons by both parties with the full knowledge of all the responsible authorities This den of corruption has been allowed to flourish in full view of the society, yet no action is taken by national security officials.


The prison business people are enriching themselves while tutoring young first time offenders in the art of criminality. A supposedly corrective justice system has become the opposite of what it was meant to be and in the corrupted process lost its way. Instead of reforming criminals, our prison system is providing more criminals for our society and contributing to the increase in crime rates.


There is an increasing breakdown in family life mainly in the urban centres of our country. One parent households, mostly working women, are becoming more prevalent. Children are left unattended, poorly fed and educational supervision is rare and left to the schools.  Moral and spiritual values are not taught and the children are left wanting for proper behavioural practices. The children are therefore ill prepared for adult life and work.


The single mother is out earning a living for her two to three children and herself. In some cases the mother is overseas in the USA, hoping to fix her papers and send for the children who are with a relative, usually a grandparent. In many cases this hope of bringing over the children never materializes and the children are left in limbo becoming the classical barrel children.


Some of the boys are enticed by “quick money” which leads to a life of crime. In some cases a boyfriend meets the young girls’ material and emotional needs. Early pregnancy is the outcome. The boyfriend leaves and the cycle of single parenting and its negatives continue to a next generation.


This breakdown in family life and the growing incidence of parentless and single parent children is perhaps the main reason for the escalating and uncontrollable crimes committed in our country. Is the social and family services sector overwhelmed and need improvements to adequately deal with this critical problem?


Hardly a day passes by without multiple deaths on our roads. This carnage is attributed to criminal acts by our drivers. With the absence of highway patrols on most of our roads, speeding is the norm rather than the exception. With the relatively cheap price of vehicles due to the phenomenal increase of used foreign car dealers and sales many of our people own cars.


It is not unusual for the professional and rich classes to purchase motor vehicles for their children at age 18 creating a large cadre of irresponsible and immature drivers who drive at speeds, which make it impossible to control a vehicle. These youths also engage in drag racing on our highways without regard for others.


Additionally alleged corrupt practices at the transport division is said to account for tens of thousands of drivers on our roads who received driving permits without the required tests  and are unable to read properly. Road signs, speed limits and proper driving practices are unknown to them. Foul language, constant horn blowing to move aside and break-neck speeds are normal. The breathalyser while effective at introduction seems to have become ineffective and abused. It is an uncontested truth that the traffic division has failed and crime on our roads involving the loss of innocent lives will continue unless drastic improvements are made to the policing of our drivers.


Civility in a given society is determined by the extent to which barbaric practices are employed in social relations. How we interact and treat with each other will determine the future of our society. We all have a personal responsibility to be humane and observe just laws. However our failure so to do leads to crime, corruption and the breakdown of society.


In such an environment the weak suffers the most. It is for the government of the state to ensure the rule of law is observed and practiced and that social and economic justice is the main pillar of society. Social and economic justice is our best protection against criminality. The first step in fighting crime must be a national dialogue to identify its root causes and secondly, put in place a remedial action plan.


Cecil Paul.

July 24, 2011