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I suffer from a mild case of insomnia, making me a typical ‘night owl’. While most people are fast asleep in their beds, I am awake and usually hard at work. During the early hours of the morning, I tend to get a little hungry, so I keep the kitchen well stocked with instant noodles and microwavable meals; neither of which are healthy. But there are times when I wish for something a little more substantial: a hamburger, nachos and cheese sauce or maybe even pancakes with syrup.
When I was a university student in the US, regardless of the hour, I would have driven to a neighbourhood Denny’s to satisfy those cravings. But the irony is that even though there’s one here in Trinidad, I’ve never considered going to it. And that’s simply because, at such a late hour, I dare not take the chance because I am afraid that I will end up becoming just another murder statistic.
Life in T&T has become a matter of adapting to the scourge of crime, where average citizens have learned to exercise extreme caution as they go about their daily routines and activities. We know all too well that when it comes to playing the odds, they go up that anyone can be a victim and down that the criminals will ever be caught. This isn’t pessimism—just the reality of things.
Coming off of a year with a high murder count, 2017 could be well on its way to setting a new record. But back in January, acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams touted the statistic that there was a significant reduction in violent crimes when compared to the same period of 2016, with a 20 per cent solve rate for the murders committed. This meagre accomplishment was again reiterated at an interfaith service held in February, where he offered the reassurance that, “…across Trinidad and Tobago the officers are putting in their best. They are working hard and we will, in fact, prevail over time but the world was not built in a day but there is tremendous progress taking place”.
Putting aside his futile optimism, the commissioner almost sounds like he is trying to convince himself along with the public. Unfortunately for him, the statistics are not in his favour and he just ends up embodying the incompetent caricature of local law enforcement.
However, the country’s top cop is not the only person taking part in this ‘pappyshow’. When Prime Minister Rowley was questioned at a press conference last week about the slaying of WPC Joseph, he acknowledged that the crime situation causes him to worry about the safety of his own family. He said that as the father of two girls, he shares the pain of the families who have lost their loved ones. His statement, though sincere, offers very little comfort to those who mourn and to the national community who live in fear that they might be next. Some of the highest murder rates occurred during 2001 to 2009, years when T&T was under a PNM administration. So this isn’t an issue that they ‘have’ to deal with, but one that they have consistently failed to deal with effectively. But if we look at some of the Government’s policy proposals in the last few months, it’s as good an indication as any that they are disconnected from what’s in the nation’s best interests.
Whenever a heinous crime occurs, it is usually followed by a call for capital punishment to resume and both the Prime Minister and the Attorney General have been quick to join in the ‘hang dem high’ mantra. But the idea that this will serve as an effective deterrent is folly and does absolutely nothing to address the climate that nurtures the criminality. Taken together with the fact that the security apparatus has failed in both prevention and detection, the suggestion has thus been put forward that the public be allowed to carry non-lethal forms of protection. The authorities, including the AG, offered a lacklustre acknowledgment that the proposal would be considered. However, they added the caveat that doing so would also make such items available to criminals; the rationale being that it would only lead to an environment that isn’t any safer. Now, it’s easy for him to take that position. After all, high-ranking public servants are recipients of state-provided protection and would be eligible for firearm permits. I suppose the population should rest easily knowing that the important folks and their families are safe and sound.
Arguments with respect to hangings and self-defence measures are little more than smoke and mirrors. Because while the powers-that-be argue, debate and vacillate over indirect measures, citizens continue to suffer and the criminals carry on with ‘business as usual’. Since things aren’t likely to get any better any time soon, the most law-abiding citizens can do is keep our heads down. Well, I’m done writing for the night, and I’m hungry. Since Denny’s is out of the question, I guess I’ll just have to settle for instant noodles—not the healthiest option, but at least it’s the safest one.
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