Gabriella Dubarry

Criminal expert Daurius Figueira has expressed alarm over a developing trend in the last three weeks where jilted men were able to acquire illegal firearms to kill their estranged female partners.

Figueira was giving his take on the number of murders committed in January which ended yesterday.

Statistics compiled by Guardian Media for January 2020 recorded 46 murders which saw a slight spike compared to last year’s 41.

Between 2013 to 2017, Figueira said January’s murder figures have fluctuated.

However, in 2018 he noticed January’s murder rate skyrocketed to 60—the highest recorded for the years 2013 to 2019.

The lowest was in 2015 with 30.

“By the end of 2019, the dynamics changed with women who were reported missing being discovered dead somewhere. And we see this continuing into January 2020 with women being shot by their estranged husband or lover.”

Of these murders, three women were victims of domestic violence-Gabriella Dubarry and Naiee Singh who were shot and killed by men they knew while Jezelle Philip was stabbed.

The criminologist said this showed a new trend was developing in domestic violence cases, as males were now using illegal guns as opposed to knives, cutlasses, icepicks or a keg of gasoline and a matchstick.

“Before you would have women being chopped, stabbed or faced a fiery death. Now men are using illegal guns on women due to its easy availability. It’s now becoming cold-blooded and premeditated murder. Gun violence in society has now impacted the way in which you express your hatred and anger for somebody that you have an intimate relationship with. It’s an escalation of violence. It is now opening up murders to a wider range of perpetrators who are upping their ante. Have gun will travel.”

While society has grown numb to the murder rate, Figueira has predicted that domestic violence murders would increase, given that several men were now on the breadline and unable to cope with mounting stress, financial difficulty and strained relationships.

“In hard times men see women as challenging their dominance,” Figueira said.

Criminologist Randy Seepersad said long term trends have shown that murders in January tend to be quieter or with higher levels of violence.

Seepersad shared a similar view to Figueira that domestic violence murders are sometimes caused by economic strains, frustration, low tolerance and anger.

Seepersad disagreed with Figueira that women were now gun targets by their former partners.

He said to make such a determination, research would have to be done over a prolonged period- over years.

A man, Seepersad said can use any weapon to murder a woman.

“If guns are being used more it may simply not be an issue of domestic violence and the choice of using different weapons. It may simply signal an increase in the accessibility of guns.”

As Venezuela continues to face economic hardship, Seepersad said, “We are aware that there are unscrupulous people there who are willing to trade guns for food and money.”

He said T&T’s close border with Venezuela “means more guns are going to come in now. So people will use it more widely. You will see it coming up more in other types of offences.”

Is January considered the bloodiest month of the year?

Without hazarding a guess, Seepersad said if data supports that January is the bloodiest, then the simple explanation would be that people spend beyond their means during Christmas season.

He said January tends to be the hardest months financially for people, stating that there is a link between economic hardship and crime based on criminal research.

Insisting that many citizens have become self-centred, discourteous and uncaring, Seepersad said the Government has failed to recognise this problem.

“We are totally failing in the fight against crime. I make no apologies for saying this…the politicians and the powers that be have always done…what their common sense notions are in solving the crime problem. They have always given in to what they think the public wants…the public who could vote them in or out.”

He said locking up people in prison for longer periods, building more prisons and increasing fines were punitive measures.

“While this is an important element in crime-fighting it is not everything. What they are missing is the preventative side.”

Seepersad said the Government’s action was like waiting for the disease to happen first and then to come up with a cure.