Business leaders: No faith in CoP’s claim on murder rate

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Commissioner of Police Erla Harewood-Christopher gives an address at an Independence Day ceremony at the Police Barracks, St James, Port of Spain on Thursday. – Ayanna Kinsale

THE HEADS of two business groups say Police Commissioner Erla Harewood-Christopher’s boast that the country’s current murder rate is the same as last year has not inspired confidence.

“We don’t think the murder rate will be the same as last year, as there are still a few months left in the year,” Vivek Charran, chairman of the Confederation of Regional Business Chambers, said on Friday. “We are also expecting an early fete and Carnival season, as Carnival is set for February, and this will coincide with Christmas.

“Therefore, it is going to be quite busy and the demand for money from the criminal elements may increase.”

Curtis Williams, president of the Tobago Chamber of Commerce, told Newsday his members have said Harewood-Christopher’s statement “inspires no confidence at all.

“We are celebrating our 61 years of independence and boasting about murder rates as per last year,” he said in a brief WhatsApp statement. “These deaths are husbands, wives, friends, breadwinners of families. We are treating deaths as a number with little or no empathy at all. So there is nothing to celebrate.”

Williams believes nobody really feels safe in TT.

“The business community is overwhelmed by the criminal activities throughout this country. The criminals have the upper hand on us.”

Charran agreed.

“It is something I have been speaking of – the perception of where the balance of power lies when it comes to the criminals and their interactions with the public.”

In her address on Thursday at an Independence Day ceremony at the Police Barracks, St James, Harewood-Christopher boasted of a ten per cent decrease in murders over the past few months, which essentially, brought the murder figure down to 392 for the year so far – the same as the number for the corresponding period last year.

She also said the homicide rate across the ten policing divisions was lower than last year’s but “marginally” higher in only five divisions.

Harewood-Christopher added the overall upsurge in murders was being driven by the North Central Division.

The top cop, in her address, also urged the public to avoid disparaging the performance of police officers as this could have deleterious effects on it.

She acknowledged while the police are responsible for the management of crime, they still required the public’s help for information.

Charran said the confederation believes the police service is trying its best to contain crime, but scarce resources are hampering its performance.

He also said: “We believe that negotiating above their four per cent could assist with the morale and performance.”

In the meantime, Charran said, the confederation and general public were very concerned about the incidence of home invasions and the recent sexual assault on a Venezuelan. He applauded the police for apprehending two people in connection with the incident as well as those associated with the murder of a Central Bank employee.

“It is by apprehending criminals that we can seek to redress that balance of power, where the criminals feel they are untouchable and the ease with which they believe they can kill, execute and invade people’s homes.

“We continue to maintain that the right of law-abiding citizens to protection, life and family is important and should be upheld by the government, given the current threat levels associated with crime.”