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EDITORIAL: Helicopters, drones not the answer

BEA DOTTIN, [email protected]

EDITORIAL: Helicopters, drones not the answer

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The murder of senior attorney Dana Seetahal in Trinidad and Tobago on May 4 occurred in circumstances that would have sent shockwaves of fear across the entire Caribbean.
We are in no doubt that in every CARICOM capital, those responsible for the maintenance of law and order stood and took note at the virtual execution of the Trinidadian public figure by thugs who ambushed her car in a popular part of the oil-rich country.
However, we are equally certain that Trinidadians would have been enveloped by an even greater sense of fear of these vicious criminals and of being victims of their callous brutality. And it must also have been an agonising period for the country’s Cabinet, which to many Trinidadians has failed miserably in its quest to halt the crime wave.
But the announcement last week by the government there of another plan to spend $94 million to purchase helicopters and drones to fight crime comes over as nothing short of a knee-jerk reaction.
Most Caribbean governments would no doubt wish, especially in these strained economic times, that they had the money available to Trinidad to carry out their programmes, but they don’t – not even collectively.
Those watching the situation from outside of the twin-island republic though, can only shake their heads in amazement at this decision, yet another in a clear string of initiatives that amount to very little more than pumping untold millions into law enforcement agencies, while missing the bigger picture.
We could be wrong, watching from this distance, but to us it does not appear that the root of the Trinidad crime problem has a lot to do with police resources. The country has major social challenges that will continue to haunt its citizens if the government does not shift gears.
For one, the level of poverty and hardship, absence of community facilities, the sense that for all its wealth a significant portion of the population remains immune from its benefits, and the clear indications of corruption in high places, including within law enforcement, make for a concoction of social pressures that show up in a significant way as violent crime.
We would all be much better off if we refrained from the ever-so-easy-to-identify whipping boys of drugs and guns. These may be tools of the criminals but they are not the root causes.
And we are willing to bet that, as has occurred repeatedly over the last five years or so, even after forking out $94 million for high-tech toys, violent crime will still be a major problem.
If we want to effect crime reductions in this region, we need to pay attention to the things that make citizens distrust police and politicians; that promote a sense of hopelessness in their economic future and systems of governance; that make so many young people believe that after nearly two decades of formal education they are unsure of where they are headed.
Helicopters and drones contribute nothing to that cause.