Trinicenter Trini News & Views
Raffique Shah


 ¤ Archives 2007 
 ¤ Archives 2006 
 ¤ Archives 2005 
 ¤ Archives 2004 
 ¤ Archives 2003 
 ¤ Archives 2002 
 ¤ Archives 2001 
 ¤ Trinidad News 
 ¤ International 
 ¤ Caribbean News

Crime-fighters and criminals - same difference

By Raffique Shah
November 25, 2007

The avalanche of criticisms that slammed into National Security Minister Martin Joseph and his protective services chiefs after their media briefing last week was not only predictable, but, necessary. Here's a country in the vice-like grip of a crime clinch that seems to come from a mutant octopus, and there were the minister and his chiefs saying: no worries! Well, not quite. But their apparent insensitivity to the mayhem that has engulfed the nation, the fear that most people live with, every minute, every day, only served to infuriate the population.

Really, did acting CoP Glen Roach have to refer to a "drop in crime"? Prudence, and the rising tide of anger among the populace, dictated that even if there was a genuine one per cent drop in serious crimes, he should have stayed silent. Did Minister Joseph need to reveal that his portfolio was way above his head, something that any vagrant in Tamarind Square could have told him two years ago? Did Brigadier Peter Joseph feel compelled to pronounce, in a strident tone, that the services would deal with crime, that soon the population would see the results of their initiatives?

Let me start with "de Brig", with whom I share some things in common-we are both Sandhurst graduates, hence we'd both tackle problems from a military perspective. It has been around five years since Joseph was drawn from the upper ranks of the Regiment and put to head the special anti-crime unit. Without knowing the man, I instinctively thought it was a good appointment. In many ways he was entering hostile territory, since policemen don't take kindly to soldiers poaching on their "turf" (and that could be very literal, eh!). Still, I felt he'd overcome the odds by showing his detractors-and the criminal elements-just what well-trained military officers are capable of doing.

I shan't get into classified details, or lay bare strategy and tactics. I often cringe when I read reports, in the midst of sensitive investigations, that "the police have received new leads that will take them to Carapo where the murder suspect is said to be hiding." What the hell does the reporter think the suspect would do on reading that? But Brigadier Joseph knows that good intelligence is critical to any operation. That would require reconnaissance, even infiltration. In today's hi-tech world, it would mean, too, monitoring movements and conversations of criminals.

Having built a proper database of criminal elements, one then strikes. But not before you neutralise communications in the targeted area. By the time the dust clears, it's either you have some murderers and robbers by the balls, or they are biting dust in their dying spasms. Brigadier Joseph cannot tell me that after five years on the job none of the above (and more sensitive stuff I've omitted) has been achieved. Or if they have, that he and his colleagues have not acted on them. If I were in his boots and I could not make a difference, I would quit. It's been five years now, Brig. Whatever the reasons may be behind your unit's failure to bring crime under control, as its leader you should walk .or march.

As for Minister Joseph, why did he not tell the Prime Minister that he wanted out of National Security? Why wait until after being re-appointed to howl to the heavens about being out of his depth? Is office more important than the safety of the nation's citizens? And the Police Service what do I say? If I were contracted to deal with crime, I'd start by firing half of them-the corrupt and/or lazy cops who see their job as protecting and serving self, not country. When I see known criminals walk the country as if they own it, and the police are either in collusion with them or are afraid of them, I wonder what policing has come to.

I hasten to add that the platform promises made by some politicians that, if elected to power, they would solve crime overnight, is all hogwash. Ramesh Maharaj asked for 30 days to do the job.

Is he living the fantasy world of Superman? Based on the track record of the party he has crawled back to, criminals would climb the social ladder, not rot in hell or be hanged from some mango tree. Which begs another question: why do politicians feel they need to be aligned with criminals in order to win office or remain in power? When one who works hard for a living reads about criminals with million-dollar contracts, one questions the rationale for being law-abiding.

I have left the biggest contributors to high crime for last. That's the average citizen who knows, and often benefits materially, from the blood of victims. I ask, as I have done countless times before: who buys the gold, the laptops, the cameras and the cars for which people are terrorised or killed? Look into the mirror, crook. Yes, you, jeweller, store owner, car dealer, mother, father. You are more criminal than the satanic beasts who have turned ordinary people's lives into a living hell.