Gunmen in Trinidad killed four people in 14 hours overnight Tuesday, sparking fears that the country is again on course to experience yet another bad year for violent crime and concerns that gang wars are spiraling out of control.
Crack police anti-crime squads are battling to infiltrate heavily armed gangs in eastern districts of Port of Spain, the capital, in the wake of a murder toll that has already reached 70 so far this year, accounting for nearly two murders each day.
Shaken up by what officials call a rash of senseless killings, Prime Minister, Keith Rowley poured his heart and feelings out on a visit to home island, Tobago, this week, complaining that too many of the youth of today might well be victims of poor parental supervision.
“A lot of the behavior of the young people in this country in particular is parents who allow their children to grow up without a decent standard of behavior. I know some people will take offence, but I have no other story. The churches are still open, but they are not going to make a difference, because from toddler stage parents must instill in their children. There is right and wrong. There is yours and there is theirs. Good behavior is what will give them the best opportunity to inherit what this country has to offer,” he said.
The latest round of killings has put the country on course to match or even surpass the 516 people killed last year. The comparable figure for killings as of mid February 2018 is 75 but police say there is every reason to worry that gang senseless wars will help tarnish the image of the country as one where violent killings are common place. In 2008, 550 people were killed. Last year was the second deadliest in history.
As an indication of how pressured and stressed police are trying to cope with the daily killings, a stunning 430 of last year’s 516 murders remain unsolved according to the police’s crime and problem analysis branch.
As Rowley commissioned a new police station in the tourist paradise of Tobago, he also expressed concern about attacks on tourists even as government spends millions in advertising campaigns abroad to attract visitors to Trinidad’s idyllic sister isle.
His comments came in the wake of recent attacks on a Canadian and a British couple while they were relaxing on beaches and against a background of murders of tourists in recent years.
“I’m disappointed when we put so much effort into trying to make the place attractive to visitors and then some idiot goes and do something like that and undo everything we have it. It now gives the place a name we don’t want,” he moaned.
As his officers try to deal with an escalating gangland turf war, Police Chief, Gary Griffith met with organizers of next month’s annual carnival celebrations to both assure them that they are on top of the situation and to refine security measures in place for the big event. He asked for prior warnings of places where large numbers of tourists will assemble or visit so police could be proactive and offer protection.
The meeting with the business community was sparked in part by the attacks on the visitors in Tobago and hopes that the country would not be bad mouthed by any untoward criminal act in this year’s edition. The British couple was held up at gunpoint, while the Canadian male was badly beaten with a golf club.
“For a lot of those murders, some people have taken the position that crime is the business of crime. Others have taken it as crime of passion. Some are within families and some are on the streets. There is a whole range of crime but it always seems to be somebody thinks that snuffing out somebody’s life is the way to handle a situation. We have to work our way back from that and be better than that as a people,” Rowley said.