Sunday 28th September, 2008

 
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Play a role in reducing game

The feedback from last week’s article included some questions by people who were depressed and frustrated, asking what can be done about the crime situation. With a murder toll nearing 400 it is not a pretty picture facing the nation as we head for our end-of-the-year murder tally.

The Criminal Justice system also has come under increasing scrutiny within recent weeks as witnesses give strange and conflicting testimonies in a tale that becomes more curious and disturbing, the more we hear of it.

The Chief Justice in his report for the opening of the Law Term raised the issue of the removal of preliminary inquiries as a means of speeding up the justice system.

Everyone has thoughts, ideas and suggestions as to how to tackle crime in T&T, but we, as citizens, are sometimes long on talk and short on action, so I will share with readers some ideas I had previously published on the Crimestoppers programme.

Part of the difficulty faced by the authorities is the fact that there often is not enough information coming to them about the perpetrators of crimes. The Crimestoppers programme plays a vital role in assisting here. Crimestoppers, which is an internationally recognised programme, has for the past 30 years assisted law enforcement agencies the world over.

We of the local arm of Crimestoppers, do not profess to know all the answers or to have any magic pill for the crime problem, but we know our programme works. We know it has yielded results and we know that it has made a dent in the crime situation here in T&T.

At the recent International Crimestoppers conference in Iowa, our local programme won four awards and was recognised for its growth.

Our programme is guided by a board comprised entirely of volunteers who give of their time, talents and expertise to ensure the system whereby callers can call in with information about crimes and criminal activity is secure and confidential.

We can pass on this report to the Police authorities, monitor and track its progress to ensure that it is investigated. If the investigation results in the arrest and apprehension of a suspect who is subsequently charged, then a reward is offered in respect of the information provided.

The system is founded on anonymity and is processed simply by the use of assigned code numbers. We do not use names or addresses of callers and there is no caller identification or call back features in our telephone systems.

The success and results of our programme are documented, especially upon its revamping and revival, which began when this writer headed the chairmanship under the auspices of the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Commerce in conjunction with the Ministry of National Security.

The Prime Minister recognised the value of the programme when he appointed the chairman to be part of the Ken Gordon Crime Committee and one of the most successful recommendations arising out of that committee was the greater role for Crimestoppers T&T.

As a result, there have been some spectacular drug busts, lots of information leading to the arrest and charging of people for kidnapping, murder, rape, firearms and ammunition offences and the like.

We have actively partnered with the Government and also with corporate entities such as TSTT, BWIA and various chambers of commerce across the country to make a strong secure network of Crimestoppers T&T.

While it is a private sector initiative, it remains a programme for the public as none of it could get done without the help from the public.

We also are greatly indebted to the Government and indeed, our programme has won praise internationally, for the high and intensive level of government support that we enjoy.

Our team of call-takers and administrative professionals also deserve kudos as they work behind the scenes to keep the machinery going and make sure things work smoothly.

Our Crimestoppers programme had a successful community billboard initiative where there are prizes up to a value of about one million dollars, for people, groups and communities to enhance and improve the image, visibility and awareness of the Crimestoppers signage in their communities.

Corporate entities can get involved by assisting us with the sponsorship of various initiatives and campaigns.

The ordinary citizen can assist by calling in with information and helping in the fight against crime while getting a reward for doing so and police can play their role by actively and aggressively pursuing and following up on such leads.

The Crimestoppers programme continues to provide such an avenue and mechanism, whereby instead of just talking about the problem, ordinary citizens can get involved and do something to help in combating crime.

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