Business chambers: CoP tried her best but did not succeed

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Commissioner of Police
Erla Harewood-Christopher –

Business chambers believe Commissioner of Police Erla Harewood-Christopher tried her best to control crime in the country during her tenure but agreed she was not successful.

Chairman of the Confederation of Regional Business Chambers Vivek Charran said during her term, the confederation members saw an increase in home invasions and continued to have issues with the system – the application and granting – of firearms licences.

But, he said the confederation also saw more vehicle patrols on the streets, including roadblocks, which was appreciated since most criminals used vehicles to get to and flee from crime scenes.

“On a positive note, I think she has affected the flow of things in how the police have been discharging their duties. I think she also had a lot of challenges with regard to her management of the police force, both within and without the force.

“I think they (the CoP and TTPS) are doing the best that they can. I don’t think the police are being lazy. I think they are putting themselves at risk when they go out there and face the public. And we see it on social media when they go into communities to apprehend people and so on, the kind of response that they get, which is quite dangerous and hostile at times.

“But that being said, on a higher level, when it comes to planning and policies (and) so on, are we seeing an improvement? By the end of her term, despite her best efforts, crime isn’t where we, the business community and citizens, would like it to be. I think much needs to be done because, with the crime situation as it is right now, people are in an uncomfortable position.”

Charran said that for each new commissioner, people expected change and improvements, including up-to-date technology and tools to fight crime. He questioned whether the next commissioner would be able to handle the country’s crime situation and the issues with the firearms users’ licence process.

President of the Confederation of Regional Business Chambers Vivek Charran.

He added that the fight against crime could not be placed solely on the shoulders of the police. He said there were also challenges in the prison and justice systems that needed to be resolved.

The confederation hoped for improvements in all the pubic systems, including that of out-of-date legislation.

Kiran Maharaj, president of the TT Chamber of Industry and Commerce, said she did not believe the average citizen was in a position to judge if Harewood-Christopher’s term was satisfactory or not but she admitted no one was satisfied crime was under control.

She said it was important to ask why and what holistic approach needed to be adopted.

“I am not confident we have really looked at the full picture in the right manner but I think there are attempts to get there collectively. I just wish it could be done in a more speedy fashion because there seems to be a lack of urgency sometimes. We can’t allow that so everybody needs to get involved in the process.”

She said the CoP’s intentions had always been good, she was honest in their interactions and did her best but Maharaj did not think she had the support to get the job done.

“It was clear she knew what had to be done but I feel there has been, during her tenure and even before her time, a lack of resources in some areas. I feel that is one of the things that has to be examined.”

She said crime was a multi-dimensional problem which encompassed a social aspect, resources, government involvement and more. She said there was a lot of talk about bringing crime under control but there were not many initiatives to curb crime to a level that citizens and the business community would be satisfied.

“There needs to be a deeper level of activation and we need to address the structures that are in place that disallow a quick and satisfactory manner of dealing with the issue.”

TT Chamber president Kiran Maharaj –

However, she had seen some improvements in the relationship between communities and the police as people recognised the police alone could not improve the state of things. Increased involvement by the police was facilitated by initiatives such as Crime Stoppers and the new Project Eagle Eye.

With Eagle Eye, members of the Greater Tunapuna Chamber of Industry and Commerce contributed over $400,000 to buy 97 security cameras to create a cybersecurity network with the control room at the Tunapuna Police Station.

Samuel George, chairman of the Gasparillo Chamber of Commerce, said his chamber hoped Harewood-Christopher would not return as CoP.

He said crime in TT had “escalated to unprecedented heights” during her term, and believed the style of governance had to change and immediate steps had to be taken to make citizens feel safe again.

“The police seem unable to contain the escalation and the national security apparatus has been ineffective as it has not provided viable solutions.

As a result, citizens continue to face hopelessness and uncertainty.

“Disingenuous rhetoric, the pointing of fingers and the playing of the ‘blame game’ provides no comfort to the average citizen who feels lucky to be alive on a daily basis.”

He said business confidence and investment were at an all-time low and some business owners would have to consider selling their businesses and migrating if the homicide rate, drive-by shootings and home invasion continued to increase.

“The matters pertaining to FULs (firearms users licence) that are needed by businessmen and businesswomen to defend themselves are becoming out of reach. The current commissioner of police is placing high barriers for business owners to obtain legal firearms. In fact, under this commissioner, it is easier for criminals to obtain an illegal firearm than for law-abiding citizens to obtain a FUL.

“Given the exponential increase in crime, the lack of confidence that citizens have in the effectiveness of the TTPS, it is not recommended for the Government to extend the term of Erla Haywood-Christopher as Police Commissioner.”