Murder in Trinidad and Tobago 2018-pushing the Bolsonaro effect

Murder in T&T 2018-what the statistics illustrate and do not illustrate

According to the statistics published in the daily printed media from the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) there were 516 murders in 2018 some 21 more than in 2017 (495). The murder toll for 2018 is the second highest murder toll ever with 2008 at No.1 with 550 murders. When the monthly murder toll for 2017 and 2018 is compared it is apparent that the flow of killing in 2018 was different to that of 2017 on a monthly basis.

The changed nature of the monthly murder toll for 2018 is revealed by examining the top five murdering months of 2017 and 2018 respectively. In 2017 the top five months were: January, 52 murders, May, 49 murders, December, 49 murders, September, 48 murders and August, 43 murders for a total of 241 murders (48.68% of total murders in 2017). In 2018 the top five months were: January, 60 murders, May, 60 murders, November, 47 murders, July, 46 murders and June, 44 murders for a total of 257 murders (49.80% of total murders in 2018). The murder toll of the top five months of 2018 exceeded that of 2017 by 16 murders whilst the grand total of murders for 2018 over that of 2017 was 21 murders. When the top five months of 2017-18 are compared a change in the flow of killings in 2018 is clearly apparent where January and May remained the top two murder months (No. 1 and No.2 respectively) with the number of murders in 2018 in both months increasing appreciably in 2018. The third, fourth and fifth place months in 2018 all changed in 2018 compared to 2017 which potently illustrates the change in the terrain of crime in T&T in 2018 which generated the murder toll. In 2017 the third, fourth and fifth placed months were: December, 49 murders, September, 48 murders and August 43, murders for a total of 140 murders. In 2018 the third, fourth and fifth placed months were: November 47, July, 46 and June, 44 for a total of 137 murders or three murders less than 2017 which indicates the decline after August 2018. In 2017 after January and May the killing period ran roughly from August to December but in 2018 after the surge in killings in January and May the next phase was in June and July and then a spike in November which indicates that after the June to July surge the trend was now downwards until the surge in November and the decline thereafter which was not of the required volume to surpass the peak of 2017 in the period August to December. In the aftermath of the second wave of killings in June 2018 to July 2018 the trend was again in decline until the surge of November 2018 which disturbed the trend of decline. In spite of the fact that the new Commissioner of Police appointed in August 2018 inherited a murder trend of decline compared to 2017 there was a surge in November 2018 (47 in 2018 to 35 in 2017) under his watch which eclipsed the 2017 November total by 12 murders. A comparison of the top five murder months of 2018 with the murder toll of each of these month in 2017 potently illustrates the changed trend in 2018 compared to 2017 as follows: January 2018, 60 murders and January 2017, 52 murders, May 2018, 60 murders and May 2017, 49 murders, November 2018, 47 murders and November 2017, 35 murders, July 2018, 46 murders and July 2017, 30 murders and June 2018, 44 murders with June 2017, 33 murders. The obverse picture of the top five murdering months of 2017 compared to the murder toll for each month in 2018 is as follows: January 2017, 52 murders and January 2018, 60 murders, May 2017, 49 murders and May 2018, 60 murders, December 2017, 49 murders and December 2018, 34 murders, September 2017, 48 murders and September 2018, 37 murders and August 2017, 43 murders with August 2018, 41 murders. In 2018 the murder toll of January and May set the tone for the increase on a year to year basis but by August the escalating trend was now winding down appreciably until the trend exploded in November 2018 and then quickened its decline in December 2018. In 2017 after January and May there were peaks in September and December with the momentum increasing appreciably in August 2017.

This illustrates the reality that the terrain of crime set the tempo of killings in T&T in spite of who was the Commissioner of Police for the spike of November 2018 was on the watch of the newly appointed Commissioner of Police which appeared during a trend of decline that commenced in August 2018. To present the murder statistics aggregated on the basis of quarters of the year hides the spike of November 2018 in the overall trend of decline seen in September, October, December and August thereby generating faulty analysis for answers must be forth coming for this November 2018 surge in the midst of a trend of decline which falsifies the position articulated publicly that this was the product of the new leadership of the TTPS since August 2018. Clearly, the murder toll in 2018 was driven by realities in the terrain and landscape of crime not by the policies of the leader of the TTPS where the TTPS was in fact a passive responder to this crime reality not a pre-emptive agent of change.

For 2019 the questions are then legion. Will the months of January and May continue to be No.1 and No. 2 murder months of T&T? Will the third, fourth and fifth place murder months continue to be the new model of 2018, revert to that of 2017 or a whole new model of murdering months will emerge? What is clear is if the TTPS intends to impact the terrain/landscape of crime that is driving the murder toll per month it will have to rapidly move from search and seizure to dismantling organised crime groups in T&T which it presently has no track record of successfully doing on a sustainable basis. You search and seize the ganja in North Valsayn and Westmoorings but the organised crime group was not dismantled and is still in business simply a game of backs and forwards. This reality is perfectly illustrated by the movement of retail ganja prices for imported Kush in 2018. In the midst of the killing run from January to July the price of Kush was escalating eventually crossing 600 TTD per ounce in the period. But from August and thereafter when we had those “huge” ganja busts the retail prices started falling where in December Kush was now selling for 400 TTD per ounce. Seizures made then no difference to the supply side of the market in a market where demand outstrips supply by a factor of 3 to 1 conservatively as retail prices fell dramatically which indicates that the trafficking pipelines are pumping ganja into T&T and can afford the “spectacular busts” made. In other words, ganja like dirt to burn. Transnational organised crime has sent a most potent message with the appreciable drop in the price of Kush which is simply: “We run things.” We await the reply from the Commissioner of Police in 2019 on the ground! The public relations campaign of the Commissioner has provided a stark lesson for T&T as to the existence of a hierarchy of criminal action where those who simply don’t have the wherewithal to counter the surveillance assets of the State are grabbed with great fanfare and much press play but when faced with the apex criminals well trained, disciplined and capable of unleashing countervailing measures to blunt the surveillance assets of the State you simply stay away from these cases, far, far away and have others face the music. This strategy has plainly indicated to all of us the existence and potency of this criminal hierarchy in T&T which begs the question of what happens if a member of your family and/or you is/are grabbed by these apex criminals? Let the Bolsonaro effect release you from the clutches of this apex crew.

January 4, 2019

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