Griffith – 500 homicides an unacceptable milestone

T&T’s mur­der toll reached the 500 mark yes­ter­day. How­ev­er, de­spite the alarm­ing­ly high fig­ure—the T&T Po­lice Ser­vice said that the mur­der rate has de­creased be­tween the pe­ri­od Au­gust to De­cem­ber.

Do­mes­tic and gang-re­lat­ed in­ci­dents ac­count­ed for the most amount of mur­ders in the coun­try this year

Com­mis­sion­er of Po­lice (CoP) Gary Grif­fith said yes­ter­day that reach­ing 500 homi­cides was a most un­ac­cept­able mile­stone for any coun­try. The high­est mur­der toll in T&T—550—was record­ed in 2008, while the sec­ond high­est fig­ure—509—was record­ed in 2009. Last year, 2017, the mur­der toll stood at 495.

“Reach­ing 500 homi­cides is the most un­ac­cept­able mile­stone that any coun­try can ac­quire. If any­one thinks that it can be changed to 250 in a few months, they are wrong.”

Over the last four months, how­ev­er, he said there has been a grad­ual de­crease in homi­cides in com­par­i­son to the same pe­ri­od last year, “with an over ten per cent re­duc­tion”.

“But I do not in any way see this as suc­cess. It is mea­sured progress and the di­rec­tion to dras­ti­cal­ly re­duce vi­o­lent crime.

“The end re­sult af­ter putting im­mense re­sources and poli­cies both in law en­force­ment and so­cial av­enues to turn youths away from vi­o­lent crime can be 150. But the last time we saw that was over 18 years ago. Things have changed. To get back there, all as­pects of gang ac­tiv­i­ty must be to­tal­ly elim­i­nat­ed. That would take sev­er­al years. 250 per an­num can be an at­tain­able goal in the near fu­ture but it takes a mas­sive turn­around,” Grif­fith said.

Poor Detection Rate

Whilst the over­all de­tec­tion rate in the coun­try is very poor, po­lice said the Port-of-Spain Di­vi­sion (POSD) saw a 125 per cent in­crease in its de­tec­tion rate this year. How­ev­er, mur­ders in that di­vi­sion have gone up from 36 to 42 over the cor­re­spond­ing pe­ri­ods for the years 2017 and 2018. In the South­ern Di­vi­sion, from Jan­u­ary 1 to De­cem­ber 8, 2018, there was a sev­en per cent de­crease in homi­cides from 70 in 2017 to 65 in 2018.

• In May 2017 there were 49 mur­ders in T&T while in May 2018 there were 59 mur­ders–a 20 per cent in­crease.

• In June 2017 the mur­ders record­ed were 33 and in June 2018, 44—again, an in­crease of 33 per cent.

• In Ju­ly 2017 there were 30 mur­ders and in Ju­ly 2018, 44—a 47 per cent in­crease.

• In Au­gust 2017 there were 43 mur­ders as com­pared to 41 this year Au­gust, which rep­re­sent­ed a five per cent de­crease.

• In Sep­tem­ber 2017 there were 48 mur­ders, while in the cor­re­spond­ing pe­ri­od in 2018 there were 37 mur­ders—a 30 per cent de­crease.

•In Oc­to­ber 2017 there were 40 mur­ders, while in Oc­to­ber 2018 there were 33 mur­ders—a 21 per cent de­crease.

• From Au­gust to No­vem­ber 2017 the mur­der toll was 166. How­ev­er, un­der Grif­fith’s watch, the fig­ure de­creased to 157 in 2018.

The ini­tia­tives

In Oc­to­ber dur­ing an in­ter­view, Grif­fith told the me­dia the coun­try was on the path to hav­ing over 600 mur­ders record­ed for the year. He, how­ev­er, said that with the ini­tia­tives that he had im­ple­ment­ed, there was a re­duc­tion in killings. He said then that there were over 70 oth­er ini­tia­tives he in­tend­ed to spear­head with­in a 12-month pe­ri­od.

He said he hoped for the coun­try’s mur­der toll to re­turn to an “ac­cept­able lev­el” of 150 per year.

Grif­fith did note that since Au­gust, the homi­cide rates had been de­creas­ing on a month-to-month ba­sis.

• One of the ini­tia­tives Grif­fith im­ple­ment­ed was Op­er­a­tion Strike Back where scores of peo­ple have been ar­rest­ed so far dur­ing an­ti-crime ex­er­cis­es on var­i­ous of­fences in­clud­ing mur­ders, rob­bery with vi­o­lence, arms and am­mu­ni­tion, and nar­cotics.

• An­oth­er ini­tia­tive was the Emer­gency Re­sponse Unit where a new fleet of po­lice ve­hi­cles was despatched at strate­gic lo­ca­tions through­out the coun­try, in­clud­ing in ar­eas iden­ti­fied as “hot spots”.

A se­nior po­lice of­fi­cer, at the North East­ern Di­vi­sion, who wished not to be iden­ti­fied ad­mit­ted that there are a few chal­lenges that exist still but as­sured that po­lice of­fi­cers in the di­vi­sion were “go­ing that ex­tra mile in crack­ing down on all crim­i­nals and crim­i­nal­ly-in­clined ac­tiv­i­ties”.

“I re­mem­ber when there used to be a mur­der or two a day in Laven­tille and Mor­vant, now days pass by and no mur­ders…that by it­self shows you the suc­cess of po­lice of­fi­cers’ du­ties,” the se­nior of­fi­cer said.

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