PM: Treat crime as a public-health issue

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

SAYING crime was now “unusually horrendous,” the Prime Minister said it should be viewed as a public health issue as much as typhoid or malaria, speaking at the post-Cabinet briefing at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s on Thursday.

Saying he couldn’t recall such viciousness in crime and such frequency of crime among family members, Dr Rowley said he wondered what were such perpetrators thinking.

Recalling meeting angelic pupils in schools recently, he wondered what went wrong with many youngsters in later life.

On gang crime, he said nobody in the know would get a pass from him.

“If you know your family members have illegal guns, you’re not getting a pass from me.

“If you know your friends on the block who you spend the day with, not looking for a job but planning the next crime, you are not getting a pass.

If you know an elderly person getting a pension and living their days quietly in a house and you know who broke in that house and killed that old woman, you’re not getting a pass.”

Asked by Newsday if a national conversation was needed after a spate of domestic killings, he said perhaps.

“The ones that hurt the most are the intra-family violence, because household and family, that is the castle.

“I grew up with my grandparents and I knew all my grandparents’ comperes, their associates, and there were instances of kindness, instances of care, scolding, that made me what I am today.

“Then I ask myself, when did we lose all of that? When did we create the people who are prepared to say, ‘I have have reason for what I’m doing because I didn’t get this or I didn’t get that?'”

Asked by Newsday if he and other ministers discussed those issues he said yes, and that he discussed it as National Security Council head.

Rowley said, before the pandemic, a foreign expert was due in TT to talk at a Ministry of National Security forum on violence as a public-health issue.

“Violence in our society is now a public health-issue. It is not an erratic, passing, now-and-then thing.

“It seems to be a feature of human behaviour, prominent in the society, where large numbers of people are willing to participate, to the detriment of larger numbers of people. Typhoid and malaria and other things are public-health issues and have to be dealt with as public-health issues. Violence is now a public-health issue in societies, not only ours.

“Experts are saying crime is designated a public health-issue and treated as such. But I’m not an expert, so I just rely on what they say on these matters but facilitate it.

“I think we’re going to go back there and have the national conversation elevated from ‘blame the man’ and ‘blame the officer’ to how do we as a society make interventions, protecting the young.”

Asked about claims of 12,000 illegal guns in TT, he lamented they entered TT “every which way” including coastal bays and legal ports.

“We can’t be complacent. We keep pushing uphill.”

Asked by Newsday if TT has a gun culture, he said it was not unique to this country.

“Some people believe more guns is more security. The facts don’t bear that out.”

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