A calm Minister Joseph held a press briefing at the Ministry of National Security yesterday, to announce that Government will debate a motion on crime when Parliament meets on Monday.
He said that during the first Cabinet meeting for the year, yesterday, discussed at length was the total number of homicides for 2007 which stood at a record high of 388. The homicide figure in 2006 stood at 371 and in 2005, 386 persons were murdered.
Joseph said Cabinet was concerned over the spate of homicides and it was agreed that a number of the anti-crime measures used last year did not work.
“Clearly it did not work and as a result, those measures are being reviewed and I can assure you that on Monday the Government will be in a position to say what changes will be made to ensure that we do not have a repeat in 2007,” the Minister revealed. Police sources said several vital aspects of the 2007 anti-crime initiatives were formulated by Prof Stephen Mastrofski, the crime specialist who was paid large sums of money by Government to advise police on how to tackle crime.
He said that in 2007, the Government projected a ten percent reduction in homicides, but this reduction never materialised. Instead, the country saw an unprecedented level of murders culminating in a .5 percent increase in the murder rate, at year’s end.
Joseph said that on Monday, the Government will outline what new measures will be put in place to deal with crime and will also address some of the measures which failed.
Minister Joseph said in 2007, special emphasis was placed in reducing gang-related murders and the Homicide Working Group was set up to deal with those types of murders.
He said the Repeat Offenders Programme was also put in place to monitor the activities of persons who were known to the police and who were suspects in several crimes.
Officers of the Inter-Agency Task Force were also utilised heavily but according to Minister Joseph, some of the measures put in place did not reap the desired results. Yesterday, a senior officer of the Homicide Bureau expressed concern over the increase in homicides and added that the gang killings will continue because the gang members are in possession of sophisticated weapons.
He suggested that a gun amnesty be introduced and stiffer penalties be introduced for possession of guns. Some of the anti-crime measures which Government introduced in 2007 were blimp patrols, increased foot and mobile patrols in hot spot crime areas, joint police/army patrols, the homicide working group to deal with murders, the Repeat Offenders Programme (ROPE), to target the activities of gang members, the hiring of 55 retired British Police officers to assist and train officers of the Special Anti-Crime Unit of Trinidad and Tobago, increased manpower and structured facilities for the Special Anti Crime Unit of Trinidad and Tobago, the hiring of retired police officers, the revamping of the police service with United States Professor Dr Stephen Mastrofsky being retained to introduce measures to assist in crime fighting, the revamping of the Anti-Kidnapping Unit, the establishment of a special bomb unit, to deal with bomb threats, the establishment of a K-9 Unit in Chaguaramas, the purchase of cadaver dogs to search for bodies, the purchase of tracker dogs and sniffer dogs and the purchase of new vehicles for the police service.
Yesterday, Leader of Opposition Business in the Senate Wade Mark questioned the hiring of Dr Mastrofsky to revamp the police service.
He said that Dr Mastrofsky’s plans have failed and government is wasting taxpayers money by paying someone who could not get the desired results. He said the public will be shocked to know how much it is costing taxpayers to pay Dr Mastrofski.