Criminologist: Economic hardships in Christmas, Carnival responsible for high crime

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January is usually one of the bloodiest months for the year and with 48 murders already recorded, 2018 seems to heading in the same direction.

For the same month last year there were 52 murders while in 2016, 2015, 2014 and 2013 the Police Service recorded 49, 30, 48 and 38 murders respectively.

Criminologist Dr Randy Seepersad believes that the economic hardships in the period between Christmas and Carnival may be responsible for the high crime rate in the month of January.

Seepersad, in an interview said, “People spend more than they should during the December month so they feel the pinch by January. Economic deprivation creates frustration in people. Crimes are more violent nowadays and robberies can lead to homicides.”

Saying there is anger and a sense of hopelessness among people, Seepersad said research shows this contributes to crime.

“We have found in the research that once people have that type of frustration, it generally tends to translate into higher rates of violent crimes. Carnival may also be a factor in January being the bloodiest month. To play mas is expensive and January is smack in the middle of two periods where there is high expenditure. People will go to any lengths to get extra cash,” Seepersad added.

He said job instability and uncertainty among people was creating pressures that has led to criminal behaviour.

However president of the Penal/Debe Chamber of Industry Rampersad Sieuraj said poverty and joblessness were excuses for criminals.

He said even though the economy was stagnant, people were inclined to commit crimes because there were no repercussions. “When the head of the fish is rotten, the rest of the fish is rotten. There is too much corruption at the top and this is what is causing crime,” Sieuraj said. He added that people had lost faith in politicians who use race to divide the society, triggering crime and chaos.

T&T’s lowest crime period- 1995- 2000

Twenty years ago when Basdeo Panday was Prime Minister, T&T had only 98 murders for the entire year, compared to 494 murders last year. It was the lowest murder statistic the country had ever seen in two decades and Panday believes motivation and accountability in the T&T Police Service went a long way in reducing crime.

Panday said under his tenure he recognized the importance of motivating police officers, giving them equipment to fight crime and holding managers to account. Even though times have changed now, Panday thinks the only way to solve crime is to get rid of waste, corruption and mismanagement. He also said the educational credentials of entry into the TTPS must be upgraded.

“When I became Minister of National Security I would call all heads of government every Friday morning to discuss ways and means of dealing with problems. I also held people to account. I became manager of all managers and we met regularly to discuss what the managers were doing and what they did not do. None of them wanted to be ashamed. It was a management technique,” Panday recalled.

He said the enforcement and implementation of the law was given priority and under his tenure capital punishment (death penalty) was enforced.

“There is no point in passing laws without enforcement. You also had to choose the best people for the job and the only way to stem corruption is to have management and enforcement of the law,” Panday said.

Former Attorney General Ramesh Maharaj said under his tenure intelligence machinery were put in place to detect crimes.

“This was backed up with international cooperation. We had major reforms in the Police Service and based on intelligence the right police officers were put in the right place. The death penalty was implemented and a case Management Unit was set up in the AG’s office where the TTPS was being monitored by the Ministry of National Security,” Maharaj said.

Saying criminals were prosecuted and the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions was well staffed, Maharaj said all of these programmes deteriorated from 2000 to now.

“The witness protection programme has become non existent and different forces, squads and units have changed. There is no effective machinery to take profit out of crime by dealing with the profits made by criminals. There is no detection, no conviction and criminals believe they can do whatever they want,” Maharaj said.

He added that a crime plan is not needed. Instead Maharaj said experienced passionate and dedicated individuals must be involved to win the crime fight.