By Phillip Edward Alexander
Earlier this week I submitted my suggestions for dealing with violent crime in Trinidad and Tobago directly to the minister of national security and shared it with the public and it is as follows:
First off, let me say that not only do I believe that the minister was absolutely correct when he said that the first step in any serious anti-crime initiative must first involve the removal of rogue police officers from the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service, I also believe that unless this is done we can never achieve the levels of law and order we desire.
Phillip Edward Alexander is a social and political activist, a feature writer and columnist, the founder of the Jericho Project and the chairman of the Citizen's Union of Trinidad and Tobago
Moving forward, any effort that hopes to stem the violent murder statistics must be concentrated in and around the unfortunately named 'hot spots', as this is putting the grease where the squeak is. That is not to say that all crime begins and ends in these communities or that everyone who lives there are criminals, but that this is ground zero of a waging gang war that is completely out of control and from which the entire society is suffering a great unease.
Treating the issue of violent murder and gang warfare in the specific communities in which they are happening requires a planned and sustained effort and one from which we must not deviate until each area can be considered crime free.
It is my view that we should be policing these areas to the point where to enter and exit at any time, at least the for next six months, you would have to pass through a 'Check Point Charlie' of a road block, complete with metal detectors and drug sniffer dogs, to prevent and discourage the movement of arms, ammunition and contraband, and to confine and contain the violence within a manageable area from which to target, suppress or diffuse.
Plans should be put in place to prepare for the 'migration' of the criminal element to other areas once these hotspots are isolated and contained, and efforts must be made to identify and know the key players and a willingness to follow and contain them wherever they go. It is my view that anywhere that territory is claimed and similar violence erupts, the same techniques be employed to again suppress and diffuse, with the ideal goal of creating overlapping crime free zones until the entire nation is crime free.
Also requiring special attention is the flow of guns into the country. The Coast Guard and the Customs and Excise Division need to be ramped up to deal with this, and I suggest the creation of three smaller Coast Guard bases on the remaining three 'corners' of Trinidad to monitor and control all vessels and water craft attempting to approach our shores. Ideally, landings would not be as haphazard as now obtains but should instead be restricted to registered ports and landings complete with Customs officials to police what is being brought into the country. No craft should be allowed to traverse open water and then run up our rivers without first being inspected for contraband, as many suggest that this is the main pathway for guns entering this country.
This of course needs to be accompanied by a zero tolerance policy on illegal handguns, and it is no stretch to suggest the creation of a specific gun jail complete with its own court to which all offenders could be quickly sentenced.
Speedy hearings and convictions would result in known gunmen being removed from the streets, creating a more manageable environment for law enforcement.
With regard to shipping container traffic, we've been discussing for years the idea of unstuffing all containers on the port and until this country is no longer considered a mini narco-state that is exactly what we must do. Facilities should be created to facilitate this, and the business community encouraged to support this most essential effort at stopping the flow of guns and drugs through this country.
The issue of illegal aliens is another issue that needs urgent attention and Immigration should be made to round up and repatriate all illegals who are without documentation. While many of our citizens are all for an amnesty of sorts to facilitate those who have been here for quite some time and may even be contributing members of society, the hard fact remains that many of our murders are committed by illegals who are rumoured to be here on murderous contracts.
Clearly, none of the problems we have are insurmountable and ALL of the problems we have can be solved, but it's going to take a little effort and a little sacrifice and, more importantly, it is going to take the will and agreement of us all.