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Citizens must force change
Former attorney general and congressman for the State of California, Dan Lungren, it telling T&T citizens they have the power to apply pressure on the Opposition and Government to fight crime and corruption. He says courage and unity were all that is needed to achieve this goal.
Lungren, who is credited with reducing California’s crime by half during his tenure, was one of the speakers at the Caribbean Security Forum at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Port-of-Spain, last Thursday.
The forum focused on developing strategies to curb global and national threats.
As a successful crime fighter, Lungren told the T&T Guardian that having spoken to a wide cross section of our society, he agreed that crime, murders and corruption were the most pressing issues facing us.
“Crime has the effect of freezing us into immobility. And when it does that to a society it impacts in ways that are difficult to articulate,” he said.
He said there was an acceptance of crime in T&T and unless people come together the mayhem will continue, but noted reducing crime should not be a political issue.
“Your major parties have to be committed in doing this. How do you make that happen? It is the public. They need to rise up to put pressure on the Government and Opposition in making the changes. That is how we did it California,” Lungren said, adding that by forcing pressure on political parties the issue would have to be addressed.
“The country has to come together to say we have a huge issue. They all have to put aside their differences or your country would suffer.
There is comfort and confidence in numbers. People with courage have to step up.”
If society fails to rise up, Lungren said the country would face hopelessness and helplessness.
It was the grass roots people in California, he said, whose families were affected by crime who formed a united front and forced pressure on its political system.
“It became a people’s issue.”
The former AG said the people of California, which has a population of 33 million, came together and demanded from legislators that its laws be changed following the killing of a photographer’s daughter.
Those demands led Lungren to reform the criminal justice system in California.
He also said T&T was rated by the US Justice Department as “critical” in terms of its crime level.
“That is the highest level of crime that they can give involving any country.”
While other countries are worse off when it comes to crime, Lungren said visitors and investors would still refuse to come to T&T.
“It will affect your economy because people would go elsewhere where it is safer to spend their money,” Lungren said.
He said corruption was another issue people felt was not being tackled.
“I heard it over and over again... corruption was an issue. And if that be true…I don’t live here, you have to attack that root and branch. You must have a committed effort to hit corruption where ever it is.”