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Serious crimes on the decline
Serious crimes are declining. According to latest statistics from the Crime and Problem Analysis Branch (CAPA) of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service, serious crimes, inclusive of murders, kidnapping for ransom, burglaries and break-ins, fraud offences, general larceny, woundings and shootings, among other reported crimes, have declined. The statistics are based on the period January 1 to May 31, 2010, and January 1 to May 31, 2011. According to the data, during the first five months of 2010 the total number of serious crimes was 8,706, of which 1,511 were detected. This year, however, 6,969 serious crimes were reported, out of which 1,029 were detected. A total of 220 murders between January and May 2010 was reported and only 54 were detected. For the same period this year, however, the figure amounted to 163 murders with 31 cases detected.
In the first five months of 2010, there were 293 woundings and shootings out of which 72 were detected. For the same period this year, there were 256 reports of woundings and shootings and 51 were detected. Rapes, incest and other sexual offences have also declined. For the first five months of 2010, there were 308 incidents recorded out of which 172 were detected. For the same period in 2011, 239 cases were reported with a detection of 82 cases. The Police Service has also recorded a sharp decline in general larceny. The narcotic offences figure remained constant for both 2011 and 2010. According to the data, from January to May 2010, there were 198 reported cases and all were detected, as police have described narcotic seizure as a “detectable offence.” The same figure was also recorded for the same period this year.
There were slight increases in kidnappings and serious indecency, with 47 kidnappings recorded and 20 detected between January and May last year. For the same period this year, the kidnapping figure is 49 with 22 detected. There were 25 cases of serious indecency recorded with 15 detected from January to May 2010. The comparative figure for 2011 is 30 with 13 cases being detected.
Too early to detect
According to Dr Anne-Marie Mohammed, a lecturer in the Department of Economics of the University of the West Indies, St Augustine, this trend of decline in serious crimes must continue for a substantial period before it can be determined that there has been a reversal. Mohammed, who is also chairman of the Regulated Industries Commission of T&T, noted that for the periods January 1 to May 31 2010 and for the same period of 2011, there was a 19.95 per cent in total serious crime and a 25.91 per cent decrease in murders.
“Also interesting, is the detection rate during the periods being examined. “For the five month period in 2010 the detection rate on total serious crimes stood at 17.36 per cent while for the five-month period in 2011 it fell to 14.77 per cent,” Mohammed said. She said for the categories of burglaries and break-ins together with robberies there was a decline by 22.51 per cent when the 2011 period was compared with the same period in 2010. “From the analysis of the data provided, there is a definite decline in total serious crimes being reported. However, this has only been the tendency for the last five months. “This trend must continue for a substantial period,” Mohammed said. She noted that one of the debilitating effects of crime on the citizens of a country is that it has lasting effects on its victims, which can only be healed with the passage of time and with the perpetrator being caught and punished by law.
Mohammed said while it must be realised that investment in an economy or economic activity could be negatively influenced by high levels of crime, there are other determining factors. These, she said, include the global economy, labour costs, cost of inputs (raw materials), general production cost and Government’s industrial policy. “What a high level of crime does is that it increases the cost of combating crime for both the Government and the private sector. “For the Government more money will have to be allocated in their national security budget to suppress crime. For the private sector, there will be a need to employ more security guards, purchase and upkeep surveillance equipment and secure business premises,” Mohammed said.
She said such factors could drive overhead expenditures upwards which may eventually be passed on to the consumers in the form of increased prices of goods and services. “This is the cost consumers will have to bear.”
Crime date could be misleading
It’s very tempting to look at crime data for a short period and erroneously conclude that crime has decreased, said Dr Randy Seepersad of the Criminology Unit, University of the West Indies, St Augustine. He said statistics could be “extremely misleading” due to fluctuations in crime.
“As official CAPA crime data indicates, there are fluctuations in crimes over time, but the overall trend for many crimes is upward. “The mere fact that there are fluctuations will allow us to find some points in which there are some declines, but according to long-term trends these are nothing more than fluctuations,” Seepersad said.
The “unfortunate thing,” he added, was that many politicians sought to capitalise on such statistics by citing short-term fluctuations as evidence that crime was going down. Seepersad conceded that burglaries, which he termed as a non-violent property crime, was on the decline. “However, my strong suspicion is that would-be-burglars are becoming more emboldened and burglary statistics are being displaced onto robbery statistics, which is a violent property crime by definition, which are on the increase,” he said. Seepersad said there were also noted decreases, starting around 2005/2006 in kidnappings, kidnapping for ransom, sexual offences and rape.
“With respect to kidnappings, the work of agencies like the Special Anti-Crime Unit (Sautt), Strategic Services Agencies (SSA) and the Anti-Kidnapping Squad are important,” Seepersad added. He said it was “quite difficult” to explain the decline in rapes since this could either reflect an actual decline or merely be an “artefact produced” if people were becoming less willing to report rapes. Seepersad said while there were apparent declines in shooting and wounding after 2008, the time frame was too short to determine whether or not these declines would be sustained.
Can’t become complacent—Ewatski
Deputy Police Commissioner in charge of Operations Jack Ewatski attributed the decrease in crime to continuous and sustained work by police officers. “Our officers are working hard in all areas and in all divisions. They are working very diligently. “They are implementing new ideas and new approaches and are holding people accountable for the crimes that they commit. The credit goes to the entire Police Service,” he said. Ewatski added that the right tools and training could lead to a further decrease in criminal activities. Singling out the heightened visibility of police officers, Ewatski said it was one of the “foundation approaches” in the fight against crime.
“Higher visibility gives a heightened sense of assurance to the public because it acts as a deterrent. This is a vital component in our 21st Century Policing delivery service.” Ewatski said he was generally pleased with the work of police officers, but said the Police Service must not become complacent.
“While I am very happy with the work the police have been doing, we all have our roles to play and we cannot let our guard down. “We cannot become complacent because of any reduction in crime. We need to keep our noses to the grindstone.”
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