United Nations compares T&T murder rate to Iraq

(Trinidad Express) Trinidad and Tobago now rivals Jamaica as the most violent country in the Caribbean, with the number of annual murders rising sharply from 98 to 550 over the last decade, with some areas in the Port of Spain police division being listed among the most dangerous in the world.

This is the finding of a new United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) draft report on Human Development and Citizen Security in the Caribbean, which noted, among other things, that the murder rate for Port of Spain was comparable to that of Baghdad.

The report also cites information stating that illegal guns are being rented for robbery and murder for as little as TT$100 an hour.

The report, which is expected to be released later this year, draws on the most comprehensive data on local gangs collected by the Crime and Problem Analysis (CAPA) branch of the Police Service and other detailed analyses, including a survey of 52 gang experts in all of the police districts nationwide and research conducted by Katz and Choate, among others.

An excerpt of the draft 2011 UNDP report which examines the nature and distribution of local gangs, obtained by the Sunday Express, pointed to evidence of some 95 gangs operating in Trinidad and Tobago, with a total membership of 1,269.

An analysis of the data, according to the draft UNDP report, found that the majority of criminal gangs were concentrated in three police divisions, specifically Port of Spain (which includes Belmont, Besson Street, St Clair, Woodbrook and St Barbs), Western (St James, Maraval, Carenage and Diego Martin) and Northern (which includes Arima, Arouca, Tunapuna, Cumuto, Maracas/St Joseph, Piarco, Malabar and Maloney.

Other areas with a notable gang presence include the Eastern division (which includes Sangre Grande, Mathura, Biche, Manzanilla, Mayaro, Matelot, Toco, Rio Claro and Valencia) and the North Eastern division (which includes Morvant, Barataria, San Juan, Santa Cruz, Maracas Bay and Blanchissuese).

Key findings of the report include:
• 26 per cent of local gangs place their “date of origin” prior to 2000, while the remaining groups trace their origin to after 2000.

• 83 per cent of gang members are of African origin, 13 per cent East Indian and four per cent of other ethnic backgrounds. All of the identified gangs are male-dominated and a high 87 per cent are comprised of adults.

• The majority of gangs, 86 per cent, have a group name, while 61 per cent refer to themselves as a gang, 26 per cent as a crew and 4.2 as a clip or unit.

• A large proportion, 88 per cent, claim turf while 75 per cent defend their turf.

• The vast majority, 85 per cent, do not have special symbols or identifying clothing; and almost without exception, illegal activity is accepted by all gang members.

• Two-thirds of the gangs have from six to 50 members, while 95 per cent are made up of Trinidad and Tobago citizens.

• The spatial distribution of crime in Trinidad and Tobago bears a striking similarity to the spatial distribution of gangs.

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