National Security Ministry launches $30k song competition to fight crime

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

NEW APPROACH: Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds second from right, is flanked by entertainers Ziggy Rankin, Isasha, Mr King, King David and Prophet Benjamin at the launch of the Call To Order anti-crime initiative by the Ministry of National Security, at City hall, Port of Spain on Monday. – Photo by Angelo Marcelle

With the country having already recorded more than 300 murders for the year, the Government has partnered with local reggae artistes to launch an anti-crime initiative which will aim to use music and social media to steer youth away from crime while spreading a positive message.

The heads of all organisations under the Ministry of National Security, except Police Commissioner Erla Harewood-Christopher (who was before Parliament’s Joint Select Committee on National Security to answer questions about the burgeoning crime rate), gathered at City Hall on July 8 to launch the Call to Order project.

The initiative was inspired by The Call, a locally produced reggae song which went viral after its launch three months ago.

In the song, a collaboration by Isasha, Mr King, Ziggy Ranking, Prophet Benjamin and King David, the artistes proclaim they are fed up as they call for an end to the wave of gang violence sweeping TT.

It garnered thousands of views in the hours after its release on Youtube and up to Monday had had almost 102,000 views.

Call to Order, a three-month-long competition, will see youth between ten and 24 record videos of them singing their own lyrics, using the instrumental for The Call. The videos may be no more than two minutes long and must be uploaded to Instagram Reels with the hashtag #calltoorder.

The contestants will be grouped into three age categories – ten-12, 13-19 and 20-24 – and the winners will be those who receive the most likes and shares.

The winner of each age group will receive $10,000 and a professional music video recording.

Minister of Social Development and Family Services Donna Cox, who was at the launch, pledged also to sponsor a dance aspect of the competition after she was “moved” by the artistes’ performance of The Call.

Speaking at the launch, Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds described the project as “another instalment in our efforts to respond as a society to crime and criminality.”

He said the initiative began when he saw the video on social media.

“Once I saw what they were doing, it inspired me that in the midst of all the madness, and in the midst of all the negativity, here were a few young talented brothers coming together to speak almost like a voice in the wilderness against that mayhem and madness.”

He said the initiative would target people in the age brackets most susceptible to the lures of gang life.

“We are seeing an increasing number of young people, typically between the ages of 15 and 35, becoming affected by crime, either as perpetrators or as victims of crime.

Entertainer Isasha sings his verse in the hit song The Call, alongside fellow artistes, from left, Prophet Benjamin, King David and Ziggy Rankin, at the launch of the Call To Order initiative by the Ministry of National Security, at City Hall, Port of Spain on Monday. – Photo by Angelo Marcelle

“And while this is not unique to TT, we are nonetheless obligated to find ways and opportunities to prevent and to assist our youth from being lured into a gang life and the emptiness of gangland and crime.”

The initiative comes as TT continues to grapple with a murder rate almost on par with last year’s figure.

The latest statistics on the TTPS website showed at the end of May, the murder rate was down 3.7 per cent compared to last year.

At the JSC meeting on Monday, Harewood-Christopher said serious crimes were down by 15 per cent in 2024, but murders had decreased by only one per cent.

Meanwhile, Tobago recorded its first ever triple murder at the weekend when Anslem Douglas, Gregory Hamlet and Samuel McKain were killed while playing cards on the main road in Black Rock. This has since become a quadruple murder, as a fourth victim has died.

Asked what would be different about the Call to Order initiative compared to previous soft approaches to crime-fighting, Hinds suggested it was about trying to reach people in different ways.

He said there was “no losing” in the collaboration between the ministry and the artistes.

“It is quite clear, given the complexity of human beings, you have to take different approaches in getting to people. So while hard and firm law enforcement is absolutely necessary, there are some cases (in which)the sociologists and the criminologists identify that a more people-centric approach might be equally useful. It is in this context that the use of music, which we are all agreed is a very powerful vehicle for reaching the human mind and the human spirit, can be used.”

He added, “We at National Security believe we can work with (the artistes) in a collaborative effort so that they can go into the communities which listen to them, support their work, and communicate the need to stay away from crime and live productive lives. They can show them the value of that, and they’re doing it through music. So it’s very, very powerful, very beautiful. There’s no losing in this. It’s only gain.”

Pressed on the chances of success for the initiative, given the popularity of Trinibad music, Hinds said Trinibad was a genre, and pointed to Trinibad artistes who he said produced positive music.

“The lyrics makes the difference. There are brothers like Yung Bredda and others who use the Trinibad music, but they sing positive things. And when you do, then we must support that, because the world is so nasty and full of negative things.

“So when people come with something positive, it is to be respected, it is to be valued and it is to be supported.

“What I want is an encouragement for good, healthy social living. What I want is the promotion of TT as a good place to be born, to live, to work, to prosper, and that these things could be done very safely.”