It is unfair to say murders are out of control when in fact there has been a reduction over the years, says acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams. A calculation to date by the T&T Guardian revealed 365 murders. However, Williams said his figures showed 361 murders.
The acting top cop said it also was unfair to criticise the police because members of the public should not look at the figures in isolation but rather take a holistic approach in their comments.
"I would not like to speak about murder figures in isolation but rather crime in a broader context. It must be put in context and also from a historical context because this is the lowest figure we have recorded in a long while, other than the state of emergency last year, which also led to a reduction in murders," Williams said in a telephone interview. Last year the murder figure was 354. In 2010 there were 473.
Saying T&T's murder rate was not higher than most other Caribbean countries Williams said it could in fact be "better." He added: "Our rate would be far better than most Caribbean countries and even some Latin American countries and it is not only in the category of murder but serious crimes as well. We continue to see a downward trend in violent crimes as well.
"It is unfair to question whether murders are increasing because we are progressing. The police have made a lot of inroads in fighting crime." He said when the year began it was predicted there would be "35.5 murders a month." But as the police aggressively stepped up their anti-crime initiatives, Williams said, that average was reduced to 25 a month. He added: "In September, with our reduction measures, that figure was moved to 25 a month and nobody is recognising this.
"People should be commending the police. In September there were 26 murders, October 25 and November 25." He said the ultimate aim to record no murders was not realistic. "We will want to get to the point where we have no murders but in fact that is not the reality. In the meantime I am satisfied we are making tremendous progress," he added.
Reached for comment, president of the Chaguanas Chamber of Commerce Billy Ali said while the police had improved their efforts, 365 murders were still unacceptable. "For this country, 365 murders is still very unacceptable. I am very much aware the National Security Minister and the Police Commissioner are working to fight the problem from many different angles, including trying hard to work with the communities, via different projects," Ali said.
Hoping they were not short-term plans, Ali said there should be strengthened plans to target specifically gang and drug-related crimes.