124 murders, detection rate at 9%, CoP says police in control

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Commissioner of Police Erla Harewood-Christopher – File photo

On the heels of last weekend’s murder spree, which saw ten homicides recorded between Friday and Monday, Police Commissioner Erla Harewood-Christopher says the TT Police Service (TTPS) is in control.

She made the assertion while speaking at the police media briefing on Thursday. Harewood-Christopher made the comment in light of what she described as a “surge in murders” throughout Trinidad and Tobago which she said has “fuelled a widespread fear and anxiety in our community.”

“We want to assure the public that the police, we are in control, and we are able to control the increase in the violent crime.”She attributed the problem to the prevalence of drugs and guns, but noted the police had seized more than 100 guns for the year already and almost 3,000 in the last four years.

“For this year, already we have recovered 117 weapons. Over the past four years, we would have recovered 2,840 firearms with 84,373 rounds of assorted ammunition. For the year so far, we have recovered, in addition to the 117 weapons, 1,430 rounds of ammunition.”

Head of the Homicide Bureau Rishi Singh provided more sobering statistics, though, which showed the murder toll for 2024 stood at 124, similar to 2023, with 131 recorded for the comparative period in that year. He said, when sorted by probable cause, gang-related murders (55) accounted for the largest number of murders for the year.

“Gang and drug-related motives combined to form 56 per cent of the probable cause, with ‘unknown’ being the next highest at 18 per cent. Altercation is 11 per cent while robbery stands at seven.”

Despite the number of murders being less than last year, the number of incidents leading to murder increased slightly.

“For 2024 we have 111 incidents which led to 124 persons being killed. We have 104 incidents of single murders, four incidents of double murders, one incident of triple murder, one incident of quadruple and one incident of quintuple.

“Compared to last year, we had 86 single incidents, 18 double incidents and three triple incidents, to give a total of 107 incidents for the corresponding period.”

Singh’s statistics also showed while the murder rate was almost keeping pace with last year’s, fewer murders were being solved. Although 23 people have been charged with murder for the year, only 11 of them were charged for murders committed in 2024.

“The detection rate for 2024, at the moment hovers at around nine per cent and we have a revised detection rate for 2023. As we continue to solve matters for previous years, it has improved to 16 per cent and we anticipate greater improvements as we progress.”

Singh said there has been greater reliance on technology to aid the police in solving cases.

“As it relates to the co-operative support of the scientific evidence, we are seeing increases in those areas that supplement and support the persons who provide information.”

He said while people might not always want to give an official statement, he believed it was in everyone’s best interest for people who saw something to say something.

“I would still hope and encourage that persons who see and witness and know things come forward, please…

“Despite the challenges that we face, we’re asking you to find the courage to come forward and support. And when we do that, we will be in a better space even more and more, because we demonstrate that we want things to solve and we have resolve.”

Singh said many of the cases solved this year were done so with the assistance of scientific testing and CCTV cameras, but added eyewitness testimony remained vital to solving murders.

“For the year to date, we have had support from ballistic evidence in one case. Eyewitness testimony: we have had support in nine such cases. The CCTV framework: we have had instances of great support in eight and we have had confessions in relation to three matters.”

‘CoP’s violence-reduction plan best ever’

Head of police operations deputy commissioner Junior Benjamin said the violence-reduction plan outlined by Harewood-Christopher last year was “one of the best plans that I’ve ever seen.” Benjamin said, “I believe the execution of that plan, once done properly, will really put us in a good stead as an organisation.”

Benjamin, who is responsible for ensuring the plan is implemented, said there was a focus on precision policing so that the police did not “just operate anyhow…

“We are going to look at our statistics and look at the hotspot areas and we are going to ensure that we find police officers and ensure that those police officers really deal with crime in those areas.”

He said the public could expect increased police visibility so that people could feel safe in those areas. Benjamin added that he had no intention of allowing TT to become a country run by gangs.

“To those priority offenders who believe that they can take control, we are saying, not on our watch. We are going to stand very firm.”

Police monitoring Trinibad music as part of gang crackdown

Head of the Criminal Division acting ACP Vena Butler said the police will be monitoring Trinibad music in a bid to crack down on gangs.

Butler noted the challenges posed by gangs and gang activities and said police are committed to boosting their efforts in that regard.

“We recognise that the music is being used to influence and maybe even propagate the culture and associated activities.

“Any music that plays in our local community that promotes violence propagates gang culture or promotes activities related to that culture will be monitored.”

While she did not want to say what resources police were committing to monitoring the music, Butler said the public could be assured it was being monitored and promised results.“We are paying attention to what is happening and you will see the results of that monitoring and our actions.”

She said while the police had not yet “optimised” their use of the Anti-Gang Act, she believed with co-operation from the Director of Public Prosecutions, more success would soon be seen.

“Since mid 2023, we’ve been having some success with the gang legislation, as we have been prosecuting gang members…We are focused on building evidentially sound cases that can meet the required standard for successful prosecution and robust scrutiny in the judicial system. We are building evidentially strong cases.”We acknowledge that we must continue to work towards improvement and that is our commitment.”

Butler said police were also focusing their efforts and resources on criminals whom they have dubbed the “power few.” She explained those were people deemed to be prolific offenders whom the TTPS monitored on a daily basis.

“We refine as we go along and this helps us to target those persons that are responsible in the society for those violence and that fear of crime that the commissioner spoke about.”