For the year thus far, Trinidad and Tobago has recorded 263 murders.
For the same period, we have also lost 1,203 people to COVID-19.
On the one hand, the murder figures represent the fact that the criminal element continues to operate with impunity while snatching innocent lives. On the other, it reveals just how COVID-19 continues to ravage society, wreaking havoc and throwing families into mourning over loved ones whom they never got a chance to say goodbye to.
Were it not for the preoccupation with the country’s COVID response, however, a crime debate would have been atop citizens’ minds at this time.
A State of Emergency was implemented earlier this year to help curb the spread of the virus. For a time, the measure seemed to also have assisted with keeping murders down, since it also limited the movement of the killers. In the past weeks, however, the killings have picked up again and just last weekend alone, police were kept busy as five people lost their lives by the gun in Central Trinidad. Even more concerning is that all of this is happening under the continuing SoE and 9 pm-5 am curfew.
Just recently, acting Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith, in collaboration with Crime Stoppers, launched a renewed drive to rid the streets of illegal guns.
Concerned about the developing situation, National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds met on the weekend with law enforcement heads on what is happening. It is a pity the Minister has allowed the crime situation to get to this point before demanding answers and action from the law enforcement heads the current spate of crime ravaging the country. But better late than never.
This is not just about gang warfare — innocent people are being killed. On Saturday, a businessman was killed in cold blood by bandits in front of his family.
Something is going desperately wrong.
At this time, the authorities need to get their act together. It would be good for the National Security Minister to tell the country just what he has done since assuming office to ensure that when the SoE and curfew ends, since it cannot stay indefinitely, citizens are kept safe.
Right now, rising crime must of necessity also earn some national attention, since the reality is that one life lost because of illegal guns and crime is too many.
So while we join the appeal of the authorities for citizens to end their vaccine hesitancy, we also join with all those mourning the lives of loved ones lost to gun crime. It is time that something tangible is done about crime. It can’t be that at a time when citizens are struggling with the fallout from COVID-19, that those with the wherewithal to purchase or acquire guns illegally to pursue nefarious activity can continue to terrorise the population.
The current reality is that law-abiding citizens now fear that they could be the next target of criminal elements operating with impunity, without fear of the law, or fear they will be caught and ultimately suffer the consequences of their actions. Needless, to say, we await the response from law enforcement agencies.