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All-of-society approach, update legislation to help curb crime

By Klysha Best

With just over half the year crossed off our calendars and more than 300 murders already recorded, one would think that there is no solution to the ongoing scourge that is crime in Trinidad and Tobago, especially serious crimes like murders.

However, Archbishop Jason Charles Gordon recently stated that he believed that an “all-of society” approach is needed to curb the situation and this idea is shared and fully endorsed by Dr Wendell Wallace, lecturer in Criminology and Criminal Justice at The University of the West Indies, St Augustine campus.

Speaking on the July 21 episode of Altos, The Catholic News’ television news programme on Trinity TV, Dr Wallace said: “When you look at the crime situation…., I’m also of the view that we really need an ‘all-of society’ approach, rather than simply focusing on what the police can do, or what they have been doing.”

Wallace said that over the years, he has seen several changes to the crime landscape, and there was a time when criminals had some form of respect for the police, children, women and the elderly. The adage of honour among thieves is gone, as the only thing they care about is themselves. “They do not care about others,” he said.

When asked if our legislation is keeping pace with the evolution of crime and criminality in this country, Wallace said the answer to that is a resounding ‘NO’.

“From the evolution of the criminal justice system, since inception of criminal justice systems, legislation has always been playing catch up with criminal activities,” Wallace stated.

“In some jurisdictions, they have a forward-thinking approach, and they tend to look beyond the present moment to see what’s next and I think that’s an approach we have to use here in Trinidad and Tobago and indeed in the Caribbean.”

But is there more that can be done? Wallace said while T&T does have some good initiatives, he questioned what has happened to some key plans, like the gang legislation, for example.

“Most of the murders committed in Trinidad and Tobago are gang related. So, how effective is the gang legislation that we have? We need to look at that for example.”

The other issue – firearms. “In the Caribbean, approximately 90 per cent of all murders are conducted using firearms (and that’s probably from 2000 to now), prior to that it was knives and other objects.”

“What sort of legislation do we have in place? From my perspective, I think we need to update that specific piece of legislation.”

Wallace said the Commissioner of Police, Erla Harewood-Christopher, would have mentioned an all-of-society approach as well, and people were in an uproar. However, Wallace said: “The word crime ends with ‘me’, and it is a responsibility of all of us.”

“If I were to put forward proposals as to what we can do to win this war on crime, I would look at things like parental training. To me the bedrock of society is the family and if the family is weak then society is weak.”

Altos can be viewed Fridays at 8 p.m. on Trinity TV.