(Trinidad Express) In a bid to stem gang related crime, the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) has set up a Criminal Gang Intelligence Unit (CGIU) comprising of 25 officers formerly of the Special Anti-Crime Unit of Trinidad and Tobago (SAUTT).
With the country’s murder toll now at 318, the SAUTT officers are performing the same functions, criminal intelligence gathering, which they did under the un-legislated security organisation.
“The culture of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service is that they are just not ready to take on crime in this country. But that’s what an elite organisation like SAUTT was doing,” an informed source told the Sunday Express yesterday.
SAUTT, which was established in 2003, was disbanded in August 2011 with the People’s Partnership Government reporting it was saving $132 million a year with such action. The organisation, which never operated within a legal framework during its existence, was established to deal with kidnapping for ransom, extortion, gang warfare, organised crime and terrorism.
The People’s Partnership Government set up a four-member steering committee in October 2010 comprised of then deputy Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams (now the country’s acting top cop), deputy director of the Strategic Services Agency (SSA) Julie Browne, Jacqueline Wilson and Prof Daniel Gibran to restructure the organisation. Williams chaired the committee which recommended the formation of a National Intelligence Agency (NIA) under which all intelligence would be legally gathered with a view to providing national security.
The committee in their report titled “Report and Operational Plan to Reorganise and Restructure the Special Anti-Crime Unit of Trinidad and Tobago” had determined that the country did not have a coherent national security policy.
Last week, National Security Minister Jack Warner backtracked on what seemed to be a statement about a gag order to prevent police revealing crime statistics.
“Senior law enforcement officers at the regional level, for example, should be the face of crime fighting in T&T, not the Prime Minister, Attorney General or the Minister of National Security. These high government officials should enunciate policies and not tactics. In other words, they should explore strategies to disengage the toxic relationship between crime and politics,” the report stated.
“Moreover, the face of crime solution in Trinidad and Tobago is too concentrated on the Commissioner of Police and the Minister of National Security. In the past, the COP and the Minister of National Security have been too closely tied to tactical approaches to crime fighting. This should be the responsibility of divisional commanders who should be given greater responsibilities and more resources to fight crime and then held accountable. In this way, their performance and accountability are to the policymakers and the public. In short, divisional heads should be known to their constituents and nonperformance should be identified, exposed and dealt with.”
The report also called for police reforms and a revisitation of the objectives and operations of “policing”.
“One aspect of these operational changes is the introduction of community policing across the entire country. Another reform should be a robust and sustained effort to clean up TTPS of corrupt officers, which is both intrinsic and widespread among rank and file. In this regard, policymakers should find creative ways to compensate police officers.
“Reducing corruption in TTPS is a prerequisite for reducing crime in T&T as a corrupt police agency undermines respect for law and the fundamental requirements for peace and internal stability. Moreover, the link between police officers and gang leaders is getting stronger, not weaker. Thus, the key to crime reduction in T&T lies with ‘rolling up’ criminal gangs and putting them out of business,” it stated.
The report, which was submitted to former national security minister John Sandy on December 28, 2010 observed that there was rising criminality in T&T in the past five years.
The report provides context for the National Security Council, chaired by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, to address the issues of crime, intelligence gathering and implementation management and a proposed way to utilise the SAUTT resources to make a dent on the crime scourge in T&T.
The report first contextualised the crime problem: “While we can construct a typology of crimes based on crime data reported to and compiled by the police over this period, we are unable, however, to identify specific root causes and the extent to which individual choices play a major role in these crimes. These crime data do not reflect the nature of the incident, the social and ecological contexts in which the incident took place, the characteristics of the victim of the characteristics of the offender.
“Theoretical explanations aside, crimes in T&T do not neatly fit into the cut-and-dry explanations adumbrated for developed societies. Trinidad and Tobago’s size, ethnic makeup, location, level of economic, social and political development and its colonial past, all suggest that these unique features of the national society also demand that certain unique data be collected. This would be the first step towards a better and more comprehensive understanding of the crime problem we face in this country,” the report noted.
Further, it observed that organised crime had an international element which has foisted a new and “very complex” dimension into domestic criminality.
“Violence in T&T is aggravated by the presence of organised crime, which in turn, is involved in a variety of activities, among which the most widespread is drug trafficking,” it said.
“Moreover, drug flows have also created a local drug use problem, which has spawned a number of domestic criminal activities such as youth gang violence, prostitution and market-related violent and property crime. In short, transnational organised crime feeds into and compounds domestic criminality in T&T. A more nuanced and comprehensive understanding of these activities and their linkages would help policymakers disaggregrate the nexus of this phenomenon and thereby take steps to address it,” it said.
Chairman of the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) Gillian Lucky, at a seminar hosted by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Trinidad and Tobago (ICATT) hosted at the Hyatt Regency (Trinidad) in Port of Spain last week said: “Far too often regime after regime comes into office and there is a dismantling of things that have been working and there is no proper assessment of whether the particular enterprise is fulfilling its mandate. And I feel very strongly about the dismantling of the SAUTT. I agree it was an illegal entity and I agree that there should have been a proper investigation to ensure it was working within a proper framework. But at the same time a lot of money was spent in establishing this unit, a lot of experts were brought in. I visited Cumuto and was very impressed that there was such a scientific approach to taking custody of exhibits and the forensic analysis of evidence. There were very talented people in SAUTT and for the first time there was the opportunity for individuals to get trained as investigators.”