PORT-OF-SPAIN: Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and Opposition Leader Dr. Keith Rowley have agreed on a number of initiatives to stem the rising crime situation in Trinidad &Tobago, with the government insisting that “crime is everybody’s business”.
Last week’s meeting between Persad-Bissessar and Dr. Rowley followed the recent murders of several people in a section of the capital earlier this month.
In an address to the nation following the meeting, Persad-Bissessar said that no political party, no individual government can solve crime alone.
“This is neither a party nor a political issue,” she said. “The fight against crime should be something that unites us, not divides us. It will take the collective efforts of the government, all other political groups, the protective services, non-government organizations, businesses and citizens. Crime is everybody’s business and we cannot end it if we put partisan interests ahead of the good of our country.”
Rowley told reporters that the opposition is committed to working with the government in the fight against crime and reiterated that a collaborative approach was needed.
“We are saying that this matter requires urgent action; we will not put any political impediment in the government’s way in treating with the loss of security and loss of opportunities for people in East Port-of-Spain or anywhere else,” he said.
Persad-Bissessar said an agreement was made at the meeting to devise a new system for the appointment of a Commissioner of Police and to boost the morale within the police service by filling vacancies and undertaking a comprehensive review of promotions in service.
There was also an agreement to create a specific offence for witness tampering and intimidation in addition to a review of the controversial Anti-Gang legislation.
Persad-Bissessar said with regards to the Bail Act, consideration will be given to deny bail to a convicted criminal if after conviction on a first offence, the person is charged a second time.
She said her administration had undertaken a number of initiatives to deal with the crime situation and that approval has been given for the police to form a Rapid Response Unit (RRU) and to purchase 300 new vehicles.
“This unit will consist of response teams and will be equipped with advanced technological devices to improve police response time to crimes that are in progress,” said Persad-Bissessar. “Alongside this, officers will be on patrol throughout the length and breadth of the country.”
The prime minister said the teams would initially be focused on the most crime-prone areas in Trinidad and Tobago.
“We expect the Unit to be fully operational before the end of the year,” said Persad-Bissessar, adding that the government has also embarked on a specialized training program for Special Reserve Police officers.
She said the murders of young people in the East Port-of-Spain area, brought responses of “empathy, anger, shock and fear in the national community” and that many measures are being considered in response to the upsurge in violence.
However, Persad-Bissessar insisted that the measures “are not merely reactive to the current violence, nor are they confined to only one geographic area”. She said her administration is seeking “long-term visions and strategies for the transformation of East Port-of-Spain as indeed several other areas and communities throughout Trinidad & Tobago”.
The prime minister spoke of a number of new initiatives to develop the area, assuring nationals that “my government will ensure that these programs are continuous and utilizes the skills and resources in the community.
“My government understands the impact crime is having. It is not just the families of the victims who suffer; everyone does – whether its business trying to encourage foreign investment or the tourist sector trying to show off our beautiful islands.”
She called on other stakeholders including religious leaders, teachers, community groups “to continue to work with us so that together we may create safe and secure communities and a country free from fear and the horrendous crimes we are currently witnessing”.