What a bloody start to 2019, which we thought would have been different. What was once a peaceful and beautiful country has turned into a nightmare, a hotbed of criminal activity for many of its citizens.
The question is: Where have we gone wrong? What has happened that has brought us to this point? All questions we are sure to be asking ourselves regarding the present situation.
We have a bold and aggressive police commissioner and his approach to criminality has been reaping a few startling rewards. But still the crimes, blue collar and white collar, continue almost with no let up.
However, hope remains alive in this country once known as the economic gem of the Caribbean and in the past few days we have seen a flurry of successful police exercises which would make people sit up and ponder whether this was the same country in which we were born.
The ills we face include heinous murders, myriads of drug turfs involving millions of dollars, gang wars, kidnappings, car thefts, home invasions, larceny of one kind or another, robberies, rapes and sexual assaults, fraud, con men. You name it and it is well represented here in our small country.
A few days ago, the population awoke to the news that an exercise mounted by the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) resulted in the rescue of almost two dozen non-national teenage girls and the arrest of a number of older men. This marked the bust of a highly profitable sex slave trade ring with international connections. Also found in that raid were marijuana, cocaine and a large quantity of United States dollars. The rescued girls are safe, several men have been detained but what will come out of it, apart from announcing that we have hit the big times, is still to be determined.
What is frightening about this entire scenario is the rapid growth of gangs in the country. According to police statistics (Sunday Guardian, February 10) gangs have been responsible for some 2100 killings in this country between 1995 and 2013—a span of just 18 years. And in the last five years, though not confirmed, there have been about 1,500 more gang-related murders. These are most horrifying statistics for such a small nation.
More than that, the statistics show that between 1995 and 1999 there were no gang-related murders, but the turn of the century saw a different picture. For what started off as four killings in 2000 reached 197 in 2013. The rate peaked in 2008 with 278 gang-related murders that year. It is worthy to note that since 2010 some 4,600 guns and much ammunition have been confiscated from gangland.
Gangs themselves pose a formidable problem to police and the population because they are growing at a rapid rate. Whereas in 2006 the police were aware of less than 100 gangs, 95 to be precise, nationwide, with a total membership of a little less than 1300 members, in 2016 that figures grew to 172 gangs with a membership of 2358. Police statistics tell us that today there are 211 gangs operating in the country with members totalling 2458. And they are all over the country.
Now, what are the reasons that gangs are so attractive to young people? Is it the power of numbers? The easy availability of guns? Is it the easy access to motor cars? Or is it the environment or education and good parenting needed for today’s world? It is my very firm belief that the latter is responsible for all that is going on in the country today.
Being truthful in all things, respect for others, especially the elders; kindness; charity and humility are not now being taught to our children and together with examples of uncooperativeness and selfishness and unforgiveness our young people are growing up to be angry people. When parents abdicate their responsibility to their children this is the result.
I suggest we try a little harder to save this generation. We may have already lost about two, maybe we can save this one.