As Trinidad and Tobago continues to battle the criminal elements, Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley announces the nation will get a 12-month tax break for buying CCTV cameras.
Speaking at the People’s National Movement (PNM) meeting at Signature Hall, Chaguanas, on Tuesday night, Rowley said this tax break will be given to both the corporate sector and individuals to put cameras on sites.
The Prime Minister announced that $80 million was spent to purchase 2,500 cameras that are currently being installed at various locations.
He added that another 2,500 will be purchased, meaning 5,000 cameras will be operated and owned by the state and will help fight crime.
Rowley said criminals need to “get out of their hole” and move, and when they do they are recorded and this helps police in their crime-fighting efforts.
It could be worse
Addressing the number of killings of over 500, the Prime Minister said it scared him what the rate could have been had no action been taken to tackle crime.
He said that 509 people were killed in 10 months and their killers live among us in society and interact with their families and friends.
“The killers are out there in families, they’re out there among friends, they’re in spaces that each of us use and share. Who are these people? Who protects them? Who is defending her? Who feeds them?” he asked.
Criminals, he said, kill people as a form of work.
“Day after day, morning after morning, it’s the same news, more pain, more blood,” Rowley said, noting the opposition keeps saying he doesn’t say anything about the people who are being killed.
“What can I say about the killing of people other than that the government is committed and providing all the resources that the police are able to stop it before it happens or find the perpetrators afterwards,” he said.
Rowley provided the statistics of illegal firearms confiscated over a 60-month period:
He said a total of about 3,888 firearms had been seized in 60 months.
“And even after that we still have 500 murders in the last 10 months. What would have happened if the police hadn’t seized this amount of guns and ammunition in the country?” he asked.
The Prime Minister also criticized the number of gun licenses issued to give guns to people.
He said the tally shows that countries with domestic firearm proliferation have the most gun crimes in the world, and the best example is the United States.
He noted that this country has transitioned from handguns to assault weapons, with 309 seized by police over that 60-month period.
“In fact, I’m not going to say anything more tonight because there are people who will move heaven and earth to prevent you from getting the facts about how the police service has gone astray in the recent past and thus spread the word of guns and ammunition in this country, which I say again is worrying,” he said.
Rowley said he planned Monday’s National Security Council meeting and meeting with police chiefs because he knew the homicide toll, which would reach 500, would weigh heavily on people.
He said he met with law enforcement, mainly to encourage them and make sure the government was behind them.
Rowley said at the meeting that police chiefs had indicated legislation, particularly the Bail Act, would aid their crime-fighting efforts.
He criticized the opposition, noting that they had indicated they would not support the bail amendment bill.
“The UNC is happy with the way the crime is because they see a political benefit,” Rowley said.
He criticized the opposition, pointing out that when the PNM was in opposition, it had supported the very bail legislation in the interest of the people.
He said recently a Jamaican minister said they would change the law whereby a person found with a firearm without the appropriate license would face 15 years in prison.
He said the minister could count on the Jamaican opposition’s support of the public interest: “I can’t say that in Trinidad and Tobago because whether or not they support the public interest, who are on the other side is all that’s about.” they worry choice,”.
Rowley said police said one of their problems was the slow pace of law enforcement.
This is not a new complaint, he said, as he revealed the government had taken “significant action” to address the issue.
Rowley said the government spent $90 million preparing Tower D at the Waterfront International Complex in Port of Spain to set up 16 civil courts.
He said it means that every court in the courtroom is a criminal court, and the judiciary with a larger number of judges and masters is able to deal with more matters in a short period of time.
Trinidad and Tobago, he said, is a litigious society, with about 60,000 cases filed annually. However, the Prime Minister noted that about 1186 people are in prison awaiting trial for murder.
He said significant steps had been taken to speed up the processing rate, but the production rate was underway and there was no “magic wand” or “election results from failed quarters” that would improve this.
The Prime Minister also defended National Security Secretary Fitzgerald Hinds as he noted the opposition’s ongoing calls for the minister’s sacking.
Rowley noted that there were seven national security ministers under the Kamla Persad-Bissesar government.
He said criminals love it because anyone would tell you that if you move a minister from one ministry to another it takes time for a minister to get into their portfolio.
He said what the PNM has done is stay on the job, focus on each time and make improvements.
Strike Kamla’s crime plan
Rowley also criticized opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissesar’s crime plans, which include restructuring the National Security Department and splitting it into an Interior Ministry and a Defense Ministry.
He said they wanted to copy the American system, noting that their government had a state of emergency and various national security ministers.
Rowley said countries that have a defense ministry are the ones involved in wars and external conflicts.
He dismissed Persad-Bissessar’s suggestion, saying she made a “nonsensical” statement that this country doesn’t need offshore patrol vessels to deter intruders and arms smuggling.
“The latest now is that they have a plan and the plan of two departments but I can tell you that will do absolutely nothing to change the behavior and intent of our homegrown criminal element that has put us in a position , in which we do our best by our police service, we have 500 murders in Trinidad and Tobago,” he said.
He slammed Persad-Bissesar, saying she was leading a group of people “many of whom are of interest to the police and a significant number of whom have already been charged and are queuing to go to the same courthouse.”