Sunday 30th January, 2005

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Upbeat crime poll hard to swallow

Scepticism has greeted upbeat findings of the Mori poll commissioned by the Government to survey public opinion on the state of national well-being.

For a government battered by adverse reports about crime in T&T, the good-news message reported by the Mori pollsters is welcome.

So welcome, indeed, that the Ministry of Public Administration and Information rushed to spread the word, while crime advisories by foreign governments and and crime reporting by US newspapers were still hot topics.

Reports said families in Central, scared by the kidnapping threat, were emigrating. Two high-profile killings commanded headlines. The German artist Jürgen Klaus Keck, resident in T&T, was killed by bandits who also robbed his home. Carl Stone, said to be a close friend and political supporter of Prime Minister Patrick Manning, was shot dead in the street, his car stolen.

All this had hardly been digested by the T&T public when the Government released Mori poll findings that were simply hard to swallow. Those findings suggested that the vast majority feel untroubled.

Apparently more than 88 per cent of respondents told Mori they felt “very safe” or “fairly safe” walking alone in or around their neighbourhood. In another astonishing finding, Mori reported 75 per cent felt safe in their homes after dark.

That so many citizens could feel unthreatened by the crime swirling and surging around them sounds too good to be true. It probably is, unless it is possible to imagine T&T people tough-minded, unconcerned or deluded enough not to be affected by news headlines, and the pervasive sense that the crime menace is coming ever closer home.

Exceptionally protected, Mr Manning must feel that way after the killing of his friend and political collaborator. It took place in his own constituency; the body of Mr Stone was left unattended in the street for hours as neighbours were too scared to come out.

To judge from its statement last Monday, the National Security Ministry also refuses to be impressed by those consoling Mori poll results.

“Quite understandable” was how the Ministry described the travel advisories. It reported continued vigilance against crime, with the security forces remaining on a war footing.

The police and army “will continue to intensify their patrols,” including foot and mobile patrols, the Ministry said, appealing for public support.

If the Mori poll will guide policy in crime and security, that’s not yet evident from what the National Security Ministry is saying.

The inescapable feeling that Mori somehow lost its way is confirmed by Derek Chadee, UWI lecturer and manager of the ANSA McAL Research Centre. In a critique of Mori, Dr Chadee described the findings as “not only intuitively inconsistent...but also internally inconsistent.”

He cited the contradictory finding that 81 per cent of the population felt that crime and personal safety should be a priority of Vision 2020.

Moreover, Mori’s findings contradict those by ANSA McAL Psychological Research Centre, published in the Sunday Guardian, showing over the last six years at least 50 per cent admit to “a high fear of crime.”

Dr Chadee assails the phrasing of the poll questions designed by UK-based Mori, suggesting it might not have been applicable to T&T conditions.

The T&T masses are experiencing one thing...and the UK-based Mori poll is saying something else, Dr Chadee concluded.

By promoting Mori against the evidence of people’s eyes, the Government opens up itself to the accusation of purveying transparently self-serving propaganda.


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