Crippling murder rate continues in Trinidad in 2017
By Marcia Braveboy
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad — Trinis like to say God is a Trini but, with Trinidad and Tobago recording 478 murders in 2016, and the toll continuing into 2017, it seems like the devil is vacationing on the twin isle Republic.
The figure represents startling evidence of murders happening everywhere in Trinidad and Tobago, a nation crippled by fear, with three national security ministers at once, a defeated country muzzled by uncontrolled crime and Prime Minister Keith Rowley and his People’s National Movement (PNM) government blamed for the unbridled bloodshed by opposition leader, Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
When in opposition, current Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley blamed the government for not dealing with the crime problem
Even more puzzling, when the twin island’s national security minister Edmund Dillon was asked about the crime statistics at a function in the La Brea area of the island on Sunday, he said: “I do not concentrate on statistics. There is qualitative versus quantitative. I prefer to look at the qualitative aspect, which is the mind, getting rid of the fear of crime. This means doing certain things to alleviate fear in people’s mind and that is where my emphasis is, in terms of creating more deterrence, more intelligence gathered, more detection… Those are the things I concentrate on to keep them on the radar. We know of course murder is the barometer by which we are measured so murder is our main concentration effort.”
However, it seems that alleviating the fear in people’s mind includes deliberately manipulating the murder figure.
The facts are reflected in the data (Download Link) to prove that Trinidad and Tobago’s murder toll for 2016, has been the highest in six years, as reported by the Daily Express. While the Express got that part right, their toll of 462 murders for 2016 is inaccurate.
When Persad-Bissessar placed on the Parliament’s Hansard record that crime increases significantly under PNM governments, prime minister Rowley dismissed her assertion as foolishness.
However, the facts are consistent with the opposition leader’s conclusion.
In 2008, under the PNM, murders reached as high as 550 while under the UNC it got as low as 354.
The police have found several clever ways to minimize the real murder numbers. An act former minister of national security, Gary Griffith said they are not supposed to do. Griffith in an online discussion with Caribbean News Now said he will not in any way suggest that the Crime and Problem Analysis (CAPA) Branch of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) is rigging the figures, but noted that the police ought not to engage in such practice.
For instance, people found burnt to death in vehicles are often not determined as murders, as the police will arbitrarily state that the body was burnt to death but the real cause of death is not known. An Express story is one of many such instances where it reported on December 2, 2016: “The burnt remains found in a car parked in an agriculture access road in Carapichaima last month have been identified as missing Atlantic plant operator Ahmad Sayyid Ramsingh.
“DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) testing positively identified the skeletal remains on Tuesday. However, a forensic examination was unable to determine the cause of death.”
There were several such instances of bodies being burnt to death, but the police reported the cause of death as unknown.
Numerous bodies found have also been unaccounted for and so cases where the deaths are the result of murder go unchecked.
Trinidad and Tobago is not immune to the media bias that plagues newsrooms the world over. The bias is inevitable, as financiers to political parties own or control some of the leading mainstream media outlets.
This reporter observed a deliberate attempt and what looked like collusion between the media, the police and the political directorate to suppress the murder count in its public reporting of the data.
In the month of June 2016, Guardian Media, which comprises the Trinidad Guardian newspaper and CNC3 television, owned by the Caribbean’s biggest conglomerate, Ansa McAl, along with the Newsday newspaper, all halted their daily reporting of the murder figures in tandem for a couple weeks; and on resumption, they reported a toll that reflected six fewer murders than the data presented on their very own news websites. This questionable approach to journalism was repeated ad nauseam into 2016, while Caribbean News Now’s data collection reflected an average of 16 more murders than the year end tally presented by the leading daily newspapers.
This apparently unashamed and corrupt alliance between the media, politicians and the police to purposely botch the reporting of the real murder numbers was observed on numerous occasions.
After a furious exchange on Facebook about Newsday suppressing the murders, the newspaper’s editor in chief Jones P. Madeira said that they do not report all the murders because they do not want the criminals to feel good about the murders they commit.
This reporter is fully aware of the intelligence received by Trinidad and Tobago newsrooms that murderers high-five each other when the murder they commit makes it to the top of the news. As a consequence, newsrooms took a decision to place such stories on the back pages and similarly to the back of the pile for broadcast media. However, a decision to not report murders at all or to suppress the count is a first.
The decision to suppress the count serves only as a cover for the government’s and the police’s inability to manage the crime situation.
As the dialogue remained open on the world’s largest social media platform, the Newsday chief editor had two words for this reporter in a follow up post.
Caribbean News Now had therefore to collate data from a wide cross section of broadcast and print media to create a reliable list.
The murder figure according to this link known to be associated with the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) shows the murder statistics from 1994 to 2016. In 2015 it was 410. In 2016 the website, after constantly and strangely changing its figures to suit the media’s tally, reported 463 murders for 2016. Newspapers report differently 461 and 462.
At one point the crime statistics website and this reporter was reporting the same data until they started reporting a figure that was consistent with media reports.
Types of murders
Most fatalities were the result of shooting deaths. Some people’s throats were slit, some heads bashed in, others burnt to death and then there were the asphyxia cases; people stifled to death on purpose or as a result of not being able to breathe due to a gag placed on their mouths by bandits being too tight.
What to look for in the crime data provided by Caribbean News Now
Fridays seem to be the most popular days for murders. The second popular seem to be Mondays. The police may want to be on high alert on those days.
Another observation is that murders involving family members or spouses appear to be very gruesome by nature. A lot of rage and fury unleashed in those cases.
Gang related murders tend to be pretty straightforward. Bullets to head, bullets to the chest, bullets about the body.
No value for life
Trinidad and Tobago’s criminal elements clearly have no value for life when they can add the murder of an autistic child to their blood stained list of fame.
Carla Archalal did not even scream, according to reporting by the Daily Express and was incapable of putting up a fight, yet bandits who broke into her family’s home, tied and gagged her and left her to die.
Then bandits broke into the home of a 74-year-old grandmother, bashed her head in with a brick and killed her; only to escape with a theft of TT$1,000 (US$150). Zorida Enayat Ali was granny to six grandchildren and a mother of four; the Express reported.
1. Shannon Banfield in killers’ territory would be considered a hit. This 21-year-old bank worker walks into a well known store in the capital city Port of Spain known as I AM and Company and disappears; but it was not without a trace.
Her mother frantically alerted police that the last place her daughter told her she was going was to the I AM store. Employees would follow a stench three days later to Shannon’s shocking death.
It was a killing that raised red flags in the minds of citizens as the police bungled the details of her killing with lots of facts and changing of the facts bleeding out of this unfortunate situation.
The Trinidad Express documented 53 stories of the mishap and tragedy of Shannon Banfield. Read the stories.
Watch this CNC3 clip.
2. Burning people to death is nothing new in Trinidad and Tobago’s crime scheme of things. You have for instance the case of 76-year-old Jean McLeod, whose charred remains were found at her home. Also the burnt skeletal remains of someone found in the Caura area.
The burning to death that shocked the senses was when citizens had to struggle with picturing someone walking down the capital city of Port of Spain only to see someone light them on fire and leave them to die.
This happened on the morning of Monday, April 18, 2016, when citizens heading back to work after the weekend was bombarded with the news of residents in well known crime hot spot, East Dry River, Port of Spain, seeing a man on fire and screaming for dear life. A Loop TT report noted that the man was first shot and then set ablaze. The incident occurred just two days after Prime Minister Rowley addressed Laventille residents about the value of the steel pan crime and other matters.
Laventille is the main part of that notable crime hot spot connecting to East Dry River and surrounding areas in the capital city. They are strongholds of the People’s National Movement (PNM) led by Rowley.
3. Five days later the same type of death occurred. The Trinidad Guardian reported: “For the second time in less than a week, police officers of the Port-of-Spain Division have responded to reports of a burning body on the nation’s streets. Detectives are now working on the theory that setting bodies on fire is a new trend adopted by gangsters.”
Several other strange murders that included the beating of a four-year-old child to death, bodies being found down precipices, a couple burnt to death in their van and others were highlighted by online media, Loop TT.
There was a third such death happening in the south of the land, but Caribbean News Now was not able to find a news link to verify this.
Murders not counted
Due to the police’s manipulating of the murder figures, numerous bodies found, including human remains found burnt beyond recognition, have all not been included in the list of murders. An easy escape is the pathologist who is always reported as saying that forensics has not yet determined cause of death.
Then there are instances where victims get shot and are critical at hospital, but the media does no follow up to record the status of the victims.
An example of this can be found in a Newsday story where it is reported that “three persons including a man, his female cousin and an 11-year-old schoolgirl were all shot during another birthday party lime also in Carapichaima. While no one was killed in the Sunday shooting, the male victim remains warded in critical condition. The gunman was later apprehended by residents and soundly beaten before being handed over to police. He remains warded under police guard.”
In another instance, already highlighted earlier: “The burnt remains found in a car parked in an agriculture access road in Carapichaima last month have been identified as missing Atlantic plant operator Ahmad Sayyid Ramsingh.
Confusion in data collection
In cases where people go missing and are later found dead but the cause of death is not determined are among many instances where the media genuinely miscount the real murder figures.
Also, instances where people die by fire, but it is later discovered it was arson and eventual murder, tend not to be added to the murder figure either mistakenly or deliberately.
One instance of this is the case of siblings Kyla and Kemiel who died by fire that was later discovered to be arson. The Express reported: “A man who allegedly set a fire that killed two children in Palo Seco is still walking around free, and is now threatening to assault the surviving victims and destroy their new home.”
New Year murders
There were nine murders in the first six days of the New Year 2017 and two bodies found. The murder toll so far for January is 26.
Caribbean News Now will be keeping an eye on the crime situation in Trinidad and Tobago from now on and will provide monthly data on crime statistics in the Republic.