PORT OF SPAIN –– With the spiralling increase of crimes in Trinidad and Tobago, particularly murders, the nation’s security agencies have launched an all out offensive to hunt down criminals and bring them to justice.
Yesterday at a joint press conference hosted by Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, Minister of National Security Edmund Dillon and acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams, plans to strengthened the four main anti-crime pillars of prediction, deterrence, detection and prosecution were announced.
The announcements came even as the country recorded 27 murders in the first 18 days, with people being charged in only two cases.
“To date, we have mobilised the agencies, the Ministry of National Security. The T&T Defence Force has called out its reserves to treat with not only the immediate issues but to assure visitors during the Carnival period that they are safe and secure. The T&T Police Service also called out additional members of the special reserved police officers to also boost in terms of numbers,” Dillon said.
Dillon said the National Security Council met yesterday to look at strategic imperatives and to get feedback from the various heads, including the Acting Commissioner of Police as to measures that are being implemented right now.
Al-Rawi disclosed that discussions were ongoing to establish a DNA Register. He said it “will start with taking the DNA samples and putting it on the data base of the entire prison population and also allowing for the DNA sampling at law for arrestees so that forensic evidence from DNA bases will be available.”
“For instance, the heinous crime committed with the strangulation of schoolgirl Rachel Ramkissoon right now, we confined to evidence which may perhaps be led from DNA basis because there will be traces,” Al-Rawi said.
“Having a proper functional DNA register gives a better chance at detection prosecution and conviction because the evidence will be available,” he added.
He also revealed that they are nearly finished mapping the entire backlog of criminal cases in the High Court which will be available at the end of this month and also the backlog exercise in the magistracy.
Al-Rawi said it was important to manage cases in the prisons, “to make sure the at the prison talking to judiciary, the judiciary talking to police, the police talking to prosecutorial arms of T&T and that talking to the defence counsel.”
“Our system has been broken because there has been silos of operation where the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing and intelligence has not been shared and we are very pleased to say we have made big steps in the right direction,” Al-Rawi said.
Steps are being made, he said, to also address the manpower shortages at the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Williams, in his statement, said that the manpower of Homicide Investigative Department had been doubled. He said officers from that unit had benefited from basic investigative techniques and advance investigative techniques.
“We also brought on board additional technology software to aid in management of the homicide investigations. We have increased the effort around a Cold Case Unit employing officers who would have distinguished themselves as past investigators to aid us in addressing the outstanding investigations,” Williams said.
He added that already 42 “cold cases” have been identified.
In relation to the safety and security of citizens, Williams said they are utilising all the policing resources from the T&T Police Service and the Special Reserve Police to assist in providing the level of safety and security in all communities across T&T and to give the citizens the level of reassurance from increased patrols mobile and foot patrols in key locations.
He said in 2016 there was a significant number of murders in the Northern Division totalling 124 and in the Central Division, 79. There were 462 people killed in 2016.
“We have placed high priority in covering those locations and doing joint operations with the TTDF in numerous locations. In those two divisions we have changed the leadership and we have focused on assisting as much as we can. The Northern Division is under my direct focus, as the head of the organisation. It is a Division where we faced the greatest challenge in 2016,” Williams said.
Williams said T&T had a record high number of firearms seizures in 2016 in excess of 752 firearms seized. In 2015, there were 691 firearms seized.