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Raffique Shah


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Police and t'ief

August 28, 2005
By Raffique Shah

I DON'T know if they realise it, but among three of the more prominent power-groups in the society-the Police Service, "Community Leaders" and the Government-they are making life easy for newspaper columnists like me, but hell for the vast majority of the population. Check it out: many columnists write on nothing else but the level of crime in the country. Easy pickings when one refuses to look beyond the hills of Laventille, and now those in which Diego Martin is nestled.

We have been reduced to a state of anaesthesia in which we hardly even pay attention to the number of people gunned down on a daily basis. Most of us have lost track of the "body count", and we have lost faith in the police to make arrests for murders and kidnappings. We no longer bother with people who have been robbed and traumatised in the process: they are of value only to reporters trying to get "easy" stories. Rape victims quietly melt into their private worlds of suffering, agonising over the thought of having contracted HIV from their assailants. And at nights, should law abiding citizens hear their entry doors being broken down, they don't know whether it's police or t'ief invading their sanctums.

That's the level to which this country has sunk. It's something that Prime Minister Patrick Manning does not like to hear. And National Security Minister Martin Joseph cannot comprehend. I sympathise with Joseph since, for as long as the politics in the country remains the way it has been for decades, no one holding his portfolio can hope to rescue us from the crime tsunami. The opposition UNC, who have their internal crime-fighting as a priority, claim crime was under control when they were in power. They don't say whether they are talking "blue collar" or "white collar" crime. And they conveniently forget that as recently as in the last two local government elections, they fielded a number of alleged or known criminals as candidates. Is their creed "set a thief to catch a thief"?

I want the PM, Mr Joseph and Commissioner Paul to digest the following, which are facts, not allegations. About two years ago a close friend of mine had his taxi stolen from him at gunpoint. The district police told him they had no leads, but they suggested he "stake out" Point Fortin to see if his car was being used there. Poor fella, in desperation to find his lifeline, he made several trips there, but he found nothing. Some three months later he received a call from the police that his vehicle was lodged at the Maraval station.

How did it get there? The story reads like a joke. Maraval police were on a roadblock one night two months earlier when they stopped the vehicle. The driver was found to have no license and he was armed with a gun. He was charged for these offences, taken to court, fined, and went his merry way. No one bothered to check if the vehicle was on the "stolen" list, or if the man was a robber. Worse, though, when my friend went to retrieve his vehicle, he was made to hire a wrecker as dictated by the police, and later found vital items like brakes and accessories missing! These parts "disappeared" at the station, not when the bandit was driving the vehicle. How the hell could he drive a vehicle with no brakes anyway?

Another friend's car also went missing, only to be found parked right outside the Marabella Police Station. He went to retrieve it, thanking God that he could drive home with no more worries. Eh heh? The police told him he would have to hire "their" wrecker to take the car into the station yard! He refused, and simply towed it in. Of course the thief was never caught. Then in another robbery in which one victim was beaten and traumatised, some residents saw the bandits offloading stuff from the stolen vehicle into theirs and informed the police. That was how it was recovered not through the diligence of the police.

The cops informed the victim he would have to pay to wreck the car to the nearest station-$500. To add insult to injury, the victims in this case said they could easily identify the bandits. To date, no policemen have showed up either with a "rogues' album" or an artist. In fact, nothing further has happened.

Now, Mr Commissioner, Mr Minister, do you understand why people have lost faith in the police? I can multiply these incidents by a thousand or more, and police delinquency comes to the fore. Add to this the bizarre spectacle of armed police and soldiers standing by and listening to a whole community declare "war" over the death of the "leader". What madness has overtaken the country? For all the money we have, are we not on the road to Hell?