Too much talk, not enough action. That seemed to be the general concern raised by members of the business community and the Opposition, who were yesterday asked to comment on Acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams’ recent statement on the number of crime hot spots in T&T. Speaking at a recent Joint Select Committee meeting in Parliament, Williams said the police have identified 188 crime hot spots, based on research conducted by Professor Lawrence Sherman, director of the Institute of Criminology at the University of Cambridge.
But members of the business community yesterday said they have been hearing for years the police knew the gangs and hot spots and yet crime continued to escalate. They seemed concerned that taxpayers’ money was being spent on analysing the crime situation with little action coming out of various studies. All expressed interest in knowing, rather, how many criminals have been apprehended.
National Security Minister, Emmanuel George
National Security Minister Emmanuel George, asked if the police would now be going after the 188 hot spots based on the information CoP Williams disclosed, replied: “Did you ask him that?” Pressed, he said the police always acted on information they received. “I don’t know they simply gather information and do nothing with it. The facts are there for people to see. “You can see the police and army patrolling these hot spots. They are addressing the problem.” George, who recently replaced Jack Warner and admitted he knew little about the National Security Ministry and was there to learn from the experts, said: “Things are trending downwards but not as fast as everyone wants it. The police are working and they need the public’s support.”
PNM PRO, Senator Faris Al-Rawi
PNM PRO Senator Faris Al-Rawi said the PNM welcomed the ventilation of any crime statistics which would help T&T move out of the crime crisis but remained concerned that detection and conviction rates remained a closely guarded secret by members of the National Security Council. He claimed the Special Anti-crime Unit of T&T, formed under the last PNM administration and dismantled by the present Government, produced monthly reports showing up to a 29 per cent detection rate. “Why does the National Security Council, of which the CoP is a member, has the country dancing in circles (concerning detection statistics)?” Al-Rawi said he understood the 188 crime hot spots came about because of the splintering of larger hot spots into smaller ones.
He hoped the CoP was able to get meaningful results from those “measurements.” Gregory Aboud, president of the Downtown Owners and Merchants Association (DOMA) Gregory Aboud, president of DOMA, said nothing about crime statistics could be considered surprising in the context of the reality of the overwhelming lawlessness in T&T. “We have been witnesses to all types of boldfaced abuse in every sector of society, from top to bottom. “Almost anything is now possible in any place at any time of day or night. In that atmosphere nothing should surprise anyone anymore.” About said what could be considered surprising was the society’s tolerance of crime. He noted the common denominator in crime, whether white collar or murders committed in so-called depressed communities, was that no one was held accountable and 95 per cent of all crimes remained unsolved.
Billy Ali, president of the Greater Chaguanas Chamber of Commerce
“That will not surprise anyone,” Billy Ali, president of the Greater Chaguanas Chamber of Commerce said in response to Williams’ crime statistics. Referring to Prof Stephen Mastrofski, hired by the last administration to do a crime study at a cost of $83 million, Ali said: “In the Mastrofski report, information like that was already revealed. “The question is what are the results of that information. What is the crime situation now compared to then? Are we spending taxpayers’ money in the right places? “Now that the police know these things, the next obvious question is what are they going to do with the information?”
Daphne Bartlett, president of the San Fernando Business Association
Daphne Bartlett, president of the San Fernando Business Association was equally cynical of crime statistics. “That doesn’t come as a surprise. We have heard that before. I remember former national security minister Martin Joseph saying the police knew all the criminal gangs in T&T and where they were. “Yet, it seems nothing was done with that information. I ask the same question again. Statistics are good for information but at the end of the day we need to get out and catch the criminals. “We need to do what is necessary instead of just giving figures on a daily basis. We really want to know how many criminals were caught over the last month.”
Ibrahim Ali, president of the San Jan Chamber of Commerce
Ibrahim Ali, president of the San Juan Chamber of Commerce recalled that former national security minister Martin Joseph said his government knew all the gangs in T&T. “The intelligence then would be the same as today, I imagine. Even the man on the street knows that Laventille, Morvant and the Beetham have several crime hot spots yet nobody has ever dismantled them. “To simply tell us there are 188 crime hot spots and not do anything is of no consequence,” he added.