CoP: Crime fight goes beyond the physical

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Managing director at AE Tactical Luke Hadeed greets Commissioner of Police Erla Harewood-Christopher, left, while police corporate communications manager Joanne Archie looks on during a breakfast meeting held by the Chaguanas Chamber of Industry and Commerce at Signature Hall, Chagaunas on Wednesday. – Photo by Lincoln Holder

Commissioner of Police (CoP) Erla Harewood-Christopher has said people need to invoke the help of “that superior being” to bring Trinidad and Tobago back to where they want it to be, as the police cannot do it alone.

“It is as though evil has spread over the land,” Harewood-Christopher said.

She said people, specifically those who are spiritually inclined, must recognise that “this is beyond the physical.”

She gave the keynote address on Wednesday at a breakfast meeting hosted by the Chaguanas Chamber of Industry and Commerce (CCIC) at Signature Hall, Longdenville, in Chaguanas.

CCIC president Baldath Maharaj, Chaguanas mayor Faaiq Mohammed, professor emeritus Ramesh Deosaran, businessman and Crime Watch TV show host Ian Alleyne, government senator Richie Sookhai, Massy Stores Roxane de Freitas and others attended the meeting.

Considering different religions in TT, Harewood-Christopher said “that greater being” might be called by different names such as God, Allah and Krishna.

“I am sure all of us, if not 99 per cent of us, believe in a superior being, Harewood-Christopher said. “The police could come up with whatever strategy, but unless we enlist the help of God, we will be working in vain.”

Last month, the first female CoP promised a reduction in murders by June. She made that comment at her first public grilling by Parliament’s Joint Select Committee on National Security.

On Wednesday, she said the police are working “very hard” to achieve the “mission of making every place in TT safe.”

She said, “I know people are a bit alarmed that I would even suggest that they can see some progress by June, but I know if we all do our part with the help of God, we can achieve it.”

Saying she was from central Trinidad, she added that crime in the division is also important to her. She added that the police are addressing crime at the national level, as all divisions are affected.

Harewood-Christopher outlined several initiatives to address violent crime.

One method is precision policing. The commissioner said there are few prolific offenders who are responsible for violent crimes.

Another objective is dismantling criminal gangs. Criminal gangs and drugs are responsible for 65 per cent of murders.

She added that 87 per cent of the murders in 2022 were committed with guns, and praised the police for removing some illegal guns from the streets. For this year alone, the police have seized 156 guns and over 3,000 rounds of ammunition, as of Monday.

She said the public’s perception of crime is regrettably but understandably driven by one statistic — the homicide rate.

Unless the public experiences a reduction in the murder rate, the perception of crime and the assessment of the effectiveness of the police will be negative.

“The police have been able to manage the other serious crimes, but the murders have been beyond us. But we know, and you know, we cannot really stop the murder rate. It takes an entire country. We can do our part,” the commissioner said.

While the police work toward making it more difficult by being visible and trying to remove the guns, people use other weapons like cutlasses and knives.

Harewood-Christopher said the police also intend to focus on transnational crimes.

“We want to enhance police intelligence capabilities. We want to ensure we leverage the technologies to enhance the police operations.”

The commissioner also hopes to win the public’s trust and confidence in the police.

She said she asked divisional commanders to ensure that at every station, the police host a town meeting monthly.

“The population wants to know that they can trust the police to act with integrity, do the right thing always and respect them. We are focusing on that aspect – building trust and confidence.”

Internally, she hopes to increase accountability through greater management and supervision of police operations.

She said under her leadership, the police would exhibit a zero-tolerance position on police indiscipline and corruption.

She said several police in the division have been arrested and charged with corruption, and warned, “We will arrest our own if it becomes necessary. There are but a few police who are corrupted, not the entire service.”

Harewood-Christopher said the public could do its part to help the police.

One way is by being law-abiding and adopting a zero-tolerance position on errant behaviours, whether minor or major. Another is by co-operating with the police.

She called on people to give the police information.

“We need to develop a culture of actively and proactively sharing critical information with the police. Everyone has a role to play in fighting crime even before it happens. Crime prevention is important,” Harewood-Christopher said.