Murders 600 and counting in Trinidad and Tobago

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Flag map of Trinidad and Tobago. Image courtesy of Pixabay.

Have you ever stopped to think about the true cost of crime and the violence it leaves behind? The countless broken hearts, broken homes, broken happiness. It’s clear we in Trinidad and Tobago live in daily fear of the countless tragedies plagued by our now accepting society. It is clear that our leaders are unfit to alleviate the existing violent culture of our youths. How did we get it so wrong? Will it ever be fixed? Can it be fixed?

These are the concerns of many of us on the twin isle. Trinidad used to be a great place to live, a lot safer than it is now. However, we have made the international stage for one of the most violent countries in the Americas. How can we be proud of such a ranking?

We have been struggling with high rates of violent crime for over six decades and we still cannot get it right. In my opinion, we are not progressing much. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Trinidad and Tobago has one of the highest per capita murder rates in the world, with a rate of 35.2 murders per 100,000 population in 2018. This rate is significantly higher than the global average of 6.2 murders per 100,000 population. In fact, the country is on pace to pass 600 murders for 2022, a sharp increase from the previous year.

We know that the majority of violent crimes in Trinidad and Tobago are gang-related, with organized crime groups often involved in drug trafficking, extortion, and other illegal activities. These groups frequently engage in violent conflict with one another, which contributes to the high level of violent crime in the country. However, very little has been done to curb the carnage. In fact, of the 98 people charged with murder this year, 75 of these homicides were committed in 2022. This means of the 523 murders, so far, for the year, an estimated 14 per cent resulted in charges. According to the police statistics, 15 of those charged were for murders committed in 2021, and the other eight related to matters solved by the Cold Case Unit of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) for homicides committed over the last five years.

In addition to gang violence, Trinidad and Tobago also faces issues with gun violence and domestic violence. We have a high rate of “illegal” gun ownership, with those firearms frequently used in violent retaliatory acts of violence. Domestic violence is also a significant issue, with women and children often the victims of abuse.

The T&T Government has spent $54 billion on the country’s national security over the last eight years, with at least $828 million of that figure going to the TTPS, yet citizens are tormented by fear and forced to watch over their shoulders in their homes and public spaces as criminals “reign supreme”.

The situation has become so grave, the Opposition has requested that Parliament’s Joint Select Committee on Security convene in an emergency session to inquire about what is being done to address the crime problem. My very well-known neighbour and pig farmer, Wayne Bowen, 70, was beaten mercilessly, hog-tied, sprayed with insecticide and set on fire by three gun-toting bandits who invaded his Cumuto Road home in May this year.

But, despite the billions spent by successive governments in the name of national security, T&T is the eighth most violent country in the world based on some international rankings. This shows our inability to manage the crime situation in our tiny country as a result of years of our neglect in addressing preventative security measures instead of reactive strategies that have not worked. We certainly need to refocus on rebuilding our moral values and self discipline.

The people of Trinidad and Tobago deserve to live in a society where they don’t have to fear for their safety. It’s time for more to be done to address the root causes of crime and to effectively reduce the level of violence in the country. Only then can the people of Trinidad and Tobago truly thrive and live their lives to the fullest.

Subrina Hall-Azih is a Trinidadian educator residing in New York.

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One Comment

  1. Trinidad has been a transhipment island since the 1800s during the time when many South American countries were fighting Spain for their independence. Guns and ammo was shipped into south America through trinidad and payment for such goods sent back to Great Britain 51 Degress North.

    In 2022 the movement of illegal goods and services use the same route and mechanism and often managed by the decendants of those involved in the past.

    Trinidad was settled and used for big illegal activity for more than a century. It’s roots grow very deep and is integral to the growth and success of the private sector.

    The government is controlled by wealthy business interest, most of who are corupt and involved in dubious practices. So the crime we are seeing is a byproduct of our criminal culture and history. If their are criminals stearing the ship, who do you think the passengers are?

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