The spate of violent crimes recorded in less than 12 hours on Tuesday put into sharp focus two of the biggest contributors to insecurity and instability in this country—criminal gangs and gender-based violence.
The timing was also significant, as two were incidents of gender-based violence committed the day after International Women’s Day and others were gang-related killings on the very day that Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi introduced a new version of the Anti-Gang Bill for debate in the Senate.
Gang and gender-based violence are leading causes of death by murder in T&T, so these alarming juxtapositions cannot be treated lightly. If anything, it should strengthen our resolve to get things right at the levels of law enforcement, justice, policy-making and community engagement to eradicate these scourges once and for all.
The bloodiest Tuesday of the year so far is a sobering reminder that T&T is nowhere near turning the corner on crime, although recent statistics from the T&T Police Service (TTPS) show a reduction in murders and other serious offences. After decades of a steady descent into more and more violence and bloodshed, it will take more than a few months of reducing numbers to indicate a clear turnaround from out-of-control crime.
On this day of horror, the decomposing body of a 17-year-old who had been reported missing a few days earlier was found near his Tunapuna home; another teen was shot dead in Arouca as he sat in a car waiting for his mother to complete a job interview; a businessman was gunned down outside his home and a murder-suicide was followed by another domestic violence incident that ended with several homes being burnt to the ground.
The repercussions of these tragedies will be felt not only by the victims and their families but by a wider society that is repeatedly being exposed to the short and long-term effects of gang and gender-based violence.
The absence of consistent policies and programmes to protect and support survivors of violence, while also holding perpetrators accountable and working to rehabilitate them, has been highlighted in the protests and lobbying efforts by several groups in recent weeks. This follows the outrage felt across the country following the kidnap and murder of Andrea Bharatt.
Citizens are demanding change but that change is still out of reach if Tuesday’s events are an indication of the current situation. Perpetrators of gender-based and gang violence are still at large and there seems very little can be done to deter them from their deadly activities.
Legislators and policymakers are still unable to grasp the nuanced complexities of these problems and are therefore unable to develop more effective programmes and policies.
So, while large sums are spent on crime prevention, that pales in comparison to the indirect costs incurred through reduced productivity, increased absenteeism and other consequences of violence that are often overlooked.
Criminals are being bred and violence thrives in the pockets of poverty, neglect and despair that exist across this country. That is why it will take more than tough law enforcement to stop the bloodshed.