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NY City, T&T go different directions in crime fight

Published: 
Sunday, January 14, 2018
A stray dog walks past the burnt vehicle in which the driver Devon Hernandez and Joshua Andrews, 15, were killed after an attack along Pelican Extension, Laventille, last week.

New York City is the largest city in the United States and boasts a population of 8.5 million. This means that Trinidad and Tobago with its population of 1.3 million is more than six times smaller than New York City when it comes to population size.

However, the murder toll of the two for 2017 tell a different story.

Despite being that much smaller than New York City, Trinidad and Tobago has recorded 200 more murders.

New York City recorded 290 murders for 2017.

The murder toll in Trinidad and Tobago for 2017 was 494.

This is a far cry from the twinning that was supposed to have taken place between the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) and the New York Police Department (NYPD) in 2014.

In 2014 in an effort to improve the operations of the TTPS, then national security minister Gary Griffith met with the the NYPD’s deputy commissioner John Miller with the goal of twinning the two police forces.

The twinning of the two police departments was aimed at providing the TTPS with the experience and knowledge that could be gained from interacting with the officers of the NYPD.

The initiative was developed by Bill Bratton who visited Trinidad and Tobago in 2013.

Following his visit here, Bratton was given his second stint as NYPD commissioner from 2014 to 2016.

Bratton and the broken window

Bratton is touted to have had a major role in turning crime around in New York City.

New York City was transformed from being one of the most crime-ridden cities in the world in the mid 90s to being one of the safest cities today.

In 1990 New York City recorded its highest murder toll of 2,245.

The murder toll in T&T for 1990 was only 84.

Bratton first served as NYPD commissioner from 1994 to 1996.

It was during those years, and the years following, that the city saw a decline in murder rates, violent crimes, burglary and vehicle theft.

Bratton soon became famous for applying criminologists James Wilson and George Kelling’s “broken windows” theory of policing, which claims stricter enforcement of minor crimes deters more serious offences.

Bratton also implemented a crime data and performance-measuring programme known as COMPSTAT, which departments across the country and the world began to use as a model.

COMPSTAT, which is short for Compare Statistics, is a tactical planning and accountability system.

Under Bratton, COMPSTAT identified where crimes were occurring and held local commanders responsible for their areas.

Twining the TTPS with the NYPD was anticipated to have allowed our local officers to get first-hand exposure to how the NYPD manages COMPSTAT, including domain awareness, community policing intelligence and counter-terrorism.

TTPS officers would also have gotten real-time exposure on the beat, including covert operations.

Detectives from the NYPD were also going to visit T&T to provide updates on practices and techniques that were said to have improved crime scene investigations and aid in improving the detection rate here.

Collaboration essential

The intention, Griffith said, was not to try and replicate exactly what was previously done in New York City, but that there were basic principles that could be utilised to cause positive transformation in Trinidad and Tobago.

Bratton said like a doctor dealing with a patient, every city is different and requires different amounts of medicine, different prescriptions and different procedures.

He said the secret of it all was having good police leaders, good political leadership, community leadership that can be involved in collaboration, working with the political and police leadership.

Griffith echoed this saying that there was a strong need for the TTPS to operate on important pillars of good leadership: Management, accountability and performance measurement. Without these pillars, all anti-crime initiatives will not be fruitful.

The NYPD was also able to successfully transform its image to a more positive one in the eyes of the public, by utilising the watch words: Courtesy, Professionalism and Respect (CPR).

Griffith said he would have liked this to have been adopted by the TTPS, so that officers could improve their interaction with the public, as well as how they are perceived.

By 2015, however, Griffith was replaced as national security minister and no further efforts toward the twinning of the the TTPS and NYPD were advanced.

Griffith is said to be short-listed as a candidate as this country’s next police commissioner.

ANTI-GANG INITIATIVES, COMMUNITY POLICING HELP NYC’S CRIME FIGHT

The murder tolls of New York City and Trinidad and Tobago have gone in different directions since 2015.

In 2015 the murder toll for New York City was 352.

This gradually decreased in the following two years from 335 in 2016 to 290 in 2017.

The 290 murder toll is said to be the lowest in the modern era.

In Trinidad and Tobago, the murder toll has been going the other way.

In 2015 the murder toll in Trinidad and Tobago was 420.

In 2016 this figure increased to 462.

For the year so far, the murder toll is 25.

The most recent murder was the the discovery of the body of 40-year-old Leonard De La Rosa on a compound in the vicinity of the Samaan Tree bar along the Aranguez Main Road, around 10.30 am, yesterday.

De La Rosa had what appeared to be a single bullet hole to the head.

“Crime in New York City has reached a new low,” NYPD commissioner James P O’Neill said.

“The murder rate hasn’t been lower since the Korean War. As we celebrate this New York miracle, we continue deepening relationships with the public, emphasizing the shared responsibility we have to our safety. I am confident we can do more. And we will. It is an honour to lead this organization and be a part of the change we are seeing across the nation’s safest city.”

As the possibility of New York City’s low crime figures were becoming apparent, O’Neill attributed the declines to some core factors: “precision” policing against key offenders, anti-gang initiatives and aggressive gun investigations.

O’Neill also believes that the neighbourhood policing initiative had opened up avenues of communication between cops and communities.

The NYPD said that neighbourhood policing will be a mainstay going forward.

In July 2010 when Canadian Dwayne Gibbs was appointed Trinidad and Tobago’s police commissioner, he implemented the 21st Century Policing Initiative.

The initiative which mainly focused on getting police officers out of the stations and improving their interaction with citizens was touted as being “a new day is close to hand”, on the TTPS’s website.

However, when Gibbs resigned in 2012 the 21st Century Policing Initiative was scrapped.

Speaking at the Lower House on Friday night, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi said that crime remains the largest and most significant issue facing the country.

Al-Rawi said while the murder rate continues to be an issue “it is not lost on the citizens of this country with the significant improvements in the arrest rate following events”.

Al-Rawi said this was a scintilla of hope to the population.