Retired acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams says community watch groups working alongside the police should be encouraged and is a way of reducing the crime that has plagued the nation.
Williams was speaking to Guardian Media yesterday, following the opening ceremony of the 37th Annual General Meeting (AGM) and Conference of the Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police at the Hyatt Regency in Port-of-Spain.
Earlier this month, Guardian Media reported on Felicity residents who had instituted nightly community patrols on a voluntary basis to guard their community against criminals.
Williams, who served as Commissioner Police for six years, said such moves are positive ones in the fight against crime.
“The citizens are now recognising that it is not about the police standing on their own, it is about how the police and law-abiding citizens can partner to address what is referred to as that small element of the criminals, and I’m seeing that is happening across T&T,” Williams said.
Williams, who himself was a police officer for 37 years across numerous divisions, sections and branches of the T&T Police Service (TTPS), said such practice should be encouraged, as it can bear fruit across the nation.
He said, “The organisation and the nation are struggling but there are some positive lights and I see it featured in the very said media as I read and watch. Citizens are getting together and they’re highlighting working partnerships, whether it is in Tunapuna, Mt Lambert, Felicity, Couva, Princes Town, wherever it is, there is a movement taking place right now and I call it a positive movement with which we need to encourage because it gives hope that the citizens are recognising it is about working together with the police to push back against the criminals.”
He added, “It is in that setting citizens are saying ‘we have a role to play and we are playing this role to ensure that criminals do not target us’, so people refer to it as hardening targets and the activities that they do, each one looking after each one in network groupings like WhatsApp and all those things are benefiting the communities and if it spreads, you would find that the entire nation will be benefiting.”
On the back of 10 murders over the weekend, Williams was also asked if the situation in the country has to get worse before it gets better.
“We had a bad year in 2022. With 605 murders, you don’t really want things to get worse before it gets better. That’s as bad as you would want it. You want to see progress, and 2023 should be a sign of progress,” Williams replied.
Williams also believes there are benefits to having a regional and integrated approach to fighting crime. He is hoping that in the wake of the Regional Crime Symposium in April, the Police Commissioners attending the current conference “can take it like a baton passing from what the policy directions were at the symposium and discuss implementing some of those policies across the region.”
He, however, warned that while the public is impatient for results in the fight against crime, it will take some time.
“It does not work in the context of immediate fix. Over time, you can progress to the point where you want to be but a lot of times, people want things done now and it doesn’t work that way. Nowhere in the world it works like that. It takes a long time for you to get to that point where things are so bad and to reverse that, it will also take a while. But, it is about deliberate effort in one positive direction that can get you there,” the retired CoP said.
Meanwhile, Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police (ACCP) president, Edvin Martin, also backed communities working alongside the police.
Martin, who is also Grenada’s Commissioner of Police, said, “We need the community behind us. The police cannot solve and address this issue by themselves. If the community don’t get involved, we can’t achieve ultimate safety and security because the community knows who is causing the problem. The community knows what can be done to resolve these issues and if we achieve a better partnership with the community, I am quite sure we will create safer societies in all countries across the region.”