Friday, February 12, 2016


ASAMI NAGAKIYA was a talented and pretty young Japanese pannist (for the benefit of my foreign readers, that's somebody who plays the steel pan). She had come to Trinidad to play her instrument and to play Carnival and her body was found on Ash Wednesday morning. She had been strangled and one news report says that she also had been raped. Frankly, I believe the report of sexual assault, although the police seem bent on covering up this aspect of the crime. (Why they would want to do that is beyond me.)

But her horrible death ... and the fact that the police are doing nothing to stop or even slow the steadily growing assault by criminals on civil society has got me to thinking: can we really do nothing about it? Are we hopeless and helpless? In other words, are we perpetual victims of the criminal elements who seem to control all the important arms of the State so that they can literally thumb their noses at us and say in effect that they can do whatever they feel like doing? And we, poor fools that we are, can do nothing except bitch and complain?

Okay. The short answer to those questions is 'yes'.

But what if we the people decided to change that paradigm with some out of the box thinking? What if we came up with a solution that would force the 'powers that be' to perform or pay when they don't perform?

Let me explain: currently all the legal authorities and precedents suggest that there is no civil liability on the part of the police or even the State if a person were to become a victim of a crime. In the leading American case of Warren v. District of Columbia (1981) it was decided that there is "no general duty to provide public services, such as police protection, to any individual citizen." I haven't had the time to check the Commonwealth authorities but I'll bet dollars to doughnuts that they will fall along the same lines. In other words, the State has no legal obligation to protect you that can be enforced in a Court of Law with financial penalties if it doesn't.

But in good old T&T it is against the law for a law abiding citizen to even carry a pepper spray, and it is very, very difficult to get a firearms licence. Put another way, the State ensures by it's laws that it's law abiding citizenry is at a great disadvantage when it comes to confronting armed and dangerous criminals. And the police service (whose rather laughable motto is "to protect and serve") is so woefully incompetent and/or corrupt that the conviction rate for murder hovers somewhere around three percent! In other words, you can bet your bottom dollar that you are strictly on your own when it comes to defending yourself against the criminals. Neither the State nor the arm of the State meant to protect you (i.e., the police) are going to help you or defend you. You are going to be deliberately left unarmed and defenceless and with no legal recourse.

But aren't we a nation of laws? And aren't laws supposed to exist for the benefit of the greater society? And don't we elect politicians to make these laws for our benefit and protection? So? Why don't we tell our law makers to do their work? Lead, follow or get out of the way!!

Let me give you an (admittedly outrageous) idea: what do you think would happen if we were to change the law and make the State liable in the civil law if a person is a crime victim? If all of a sudden a Prime Minister and his/her Minister of Finance (and I'm referring here to any Prime Minister and Finance Minister ... not just Messrs. Rowley and Imbert) found themselves having to pay out millions of dollars from the State's coffers to victims of crime, how long do you think that they would tolerate those losses? How long would they stay in power if their administration had to pay out millions in damages to crime victims?

Look, somebody has to pay. We have to stop the insanity of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. My experience has been that nothing gets done if nobody has to pay for 'it' (whatever 'it' might happen to be).  Of course, we can just sit back and watch while we get picked off like rabbits in a shooting range and complain about how unfair and incompetent our leaders are.

But you should know that we, the ordinary people, really do have the power to change things ... if we really want to!! And you don't have to like or agree with my idea. Just come up with another that will fix the problem.


  1. I like your idea, but feel that it should be the Acting Commissioner of police who should be made to pay as he is the head of the Police Service.

  2. I do agree with this idea but we have become a society of everybody for themself and what doesn't affect them personally have no concern to them... U tell me a day like Carnival in a place like the Queens Park savannah and nobody saw nothing .... We have to go back to being our brother's keeper in order for anything to work....This is just my opinion.

  3. I have one other observation Robin. How is it everybody - minister, police etc - are ready to pull out all the stops and solve the case (which they never do) when a foreigner gets killed but we hear no such thing when little people die.

  4. I agree, Robin ... I totally agree!!


  5. Well you offer two ways we can help solve our crime problem: We should make gun licenses easier to obtain for the non-criminal population, and we should make the state liable to crime victims. In my opinion, neither will have the hoped-for effect. First, we should localize our crime prevention efforts. The local police should work with community organizations to monitor negative changes in their neighborhoods. And when necessary, communities should link up and share whatever data they obtain. It should be a community effort with the police in the lead. We don't have a really good handle on the drives our crime problem. We don't seem to learn from our own history. Everyone seems baffled by the crime problem and when they vent the target is always the government and the police. That hasn't worked, has it? If local crime is being driven by lack of jobs, drugs, the prevalence of guns or whatever, we need to know that. There are ways to tackle these problems but we should do it with input from the local communities. That's just the beginning. I don't want to go on endlessly, but there is more. Adding more guns is never an answer. Ask the US. And emptying the treasury as a solution is well... not a solution.

    1. I disagree with your analysis. First, I would love to have the murder rate that exist in the US here. What is it 4.5 per 100,000 citizens. That would mean we would have 80 - 90 murders in T&T per year.

      Then your idea to localize the management of the problem. Well in Tobago that is the problem. The local people all know who the criminals are, and so do the police. Go to the police station and report a crime by a 'known' person and the known person may be the policeman's or policewoman's family member and you will be in trouble. The only response is to report it to some other station.


  6. That's the problem. We keep waiting for the police to solve the problem. It's part of our history. During colonial times somebody else solved out problems. Now it's our T&T government that must solve our problems. In many rural towns in the US they have volunteer fire departments. Many schools collect money through bake sales and other things to pay for their sports equipment and their team travel. They have tons of volunteers. There is a strong sense of community and self help. People meet and talk about things that are happening in their town. They work with the police to nip things in the bud. We don't have that in T&T. We wait for someone else to do everything. Our main role in all of this is to complain.