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Trinidad and Tobago: Crime; government actions to fight crime, including crime linked to gangs and organized crime

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 27 November 2006
Citation / Document Symbol TTO101936.E
Reference 7
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Trinidad and Tobago: Crime; government actions to fight crime, including crime linked to gangs and organized crime, 27 November 2006, TTO101936.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/45f147ad23.html [accessed 25 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Background

In a 5 April 2006 news article, the Minister of State at the Ministry of National Security is quoted as saying that "ongoing statistics" indicate that "[s]ixty-five per cent of all serious crimes committed in Trinidad and Tobago are related to the illicit drug trade" (AlterPresse 5 April 2006; see also UK 2 October 2006 and Freedom House 6 Sept. 2006). In addition, news sources note that gang violence has become a big problem in the country (BBC 24 October 2006; Caribbean Net News 28 Sept. 2006). The United Kingdom's Foreign and Commonwealth Office country profile on Trinidad and Tobago indicates that money laundering is also a source of concern (2 Oct. 2006; see also Freedom House 7 Sept. 2006). According to an article published by Caribbean Net News, Trinidad and Tobago's Prime Minister acknowledged the impact the drug trade, gang violence and transnational organized crime had had on national security but indicated that his government was committed to reducing crime (28 Sept. 2006).

A news article published by the Caribbean Net News reports that 301 murders were recorded between January and mid-October 2006; 303 murders were recorded over the same period in 2005 (16 Oct. 2006). Freedom in the World 2006 notes that, from January to October 2005, 314 murders were committed in Trinidad and Tobago, marking an increase over the 222 murders recorded over the same period in 2004 (Freedom House 7 Sept. 2006). The Caribbean Net News article also indicates that, in 2005, a total of 386 homicides were reported (16 October 2006). According to Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2005, "[t]he number of killings of innocent citizens at the hands of gangs and individual criminals rose sharply: there were 386 such killings, surpassing the 259 citizens killed in 2004" (US 8 March 2006, Sect. 1a).

Freedom in the World 2006 notes that "[f]rom 2001 to 2004, the number of kidnappings increased exponentially from 10 to more than 150 a year-out of a population of 1.3 million"; as a result, Trinidad and Tobago had become the country with the "second-highest rate of abductions in the world after Colombia" (Freedom House 7 Sept. 2006). An article published by Amnesty International (AI) indicates that, in 2005, approximately 235 people were kidnapped, including roughly 54 kidnappings for ransom (26 Apr. 2006). According to Freedom House, the upward trend in Trinidad and Tobago's general crime rate has caused the court system to be "severely backlogged, in some cases for up to five years, with an estimated 20,000 criminal cases awating trial" (7 Sept. 2006; BBC 24 October 2006).

Government actions to fight crime

The International Narcotics Control Strategy Report 2006 indicates that, in 2005, the government of Trinidad and Tobago took the following steps in its fight against drug-related crime:

Policy Initiatives. In 2005, the [Government of Trinidad and Tobago] GOTT National Drug Council implemented elements of the country's counternarcotics master plan. This plan addresses both supply and demand reduction. In addition, the GOTT supported the Special Anti-Crime Unit (SAUTT), commissioned in 2004, and enhanced its capabilities. The SAUTT has responsibility for both counternarcotics and antikidnapping operations. During 2005, the GOTT hired an American criminal justice specialist to evaluate Trinidad and Tobago's law enforcement structures. His report recommended changes in the structure, training regime and culture of the police service. To implement the recommendations, the GOTT sent its elite officers to numerous drug and crime training courses in the U.S and the UK.

In 2005, the GOTT upgraded its coastal radar assets, and acquired two armed helicopters, an aerial surveillance system outfitted with radar and imaging systems, a forward-looking infrared camera, twenty-four mobile police units, and several sky watch units. Anticrime legislation under discussion as a result of negotiations between the two major parties at the end of November 2005 aims at enhancing counternarcotics enforcement.

Accomplishments. ... The GOTT ... funds an IRS Tax Assistance and Advisory Team that is working with the Board of Inland Revenue (BIR) to detect and prosecute financial crimes. The GOTT provided support for the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF), which has its secretariat in Port of Spain, and began to implement several of its recommendations to combat money laundering.

The Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard's (TTCG) Air Guard (formerly the TTCG Air Wing) conducts drug interdiction operations using two C-26 sensor aircraft it purchased from the U.S. These aircraft have maritime surveillance and drug interdiction capabilities. The GOTT has financially supported the maintenance of these aircraft since May 2005.

Law Enforcement Efforts. In 2005, the GOTT seized 3,000 kilograms of cocaine, including liquid cocaine, 15.58 kilograms of heroin, and over 100,000 kilograms of cannabis in various forms. The GOTT also eradicated 1,116,500 cannabis plants and seedlings during the year. One particularly noteworthy seizure occurred on Monos Island, located off the northwest coast of Trinidad. This joint exercise by the SAUTT, the police and the TTCG netted 1,750 kilograms of cocaine. (US March 2006)

In an effort to strengthen national security, the government of Trinidad and Tobago joined forces with a team of crime experts from George Mason University's Administration of Justice Program in the Department of Public and International Affairs to address problems related to drugs, kidnapping, murder and the illegal drug trade, and to transform the police service (George Mason University 29 Apr. 2005; AI 26 April 2006). The team of experts concentrates on two areas: "creating a solid police force and providing them with the tools and data needed to do their jobs" (George Mason University 29 Apr. 2005; AI 26 April 2006). An article published by AI indicates that experts from the United Kingdom and the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) were also contacted by Trinidad and Tobago authorities to lend assistance (26 Apr. 2006).

No information on whether or not the Justice Protection Act, No. 78 of 2000 has been implemented in Trinidad and Tobago could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

AlterPresse [Haiti]. 5 April 2006. Exilus Deceyon. "Trinidad and Tobago: Drug Trade Major Cause of Crime, According to the Security National Authorities." [Accessed 2 Nov. 2006]

Amnesty International (AI). 26 April 2006. "Trinidad and Tobago: End Police Immunity for Unlawful Killings and Deaths in Custody." (AMR 49/001/2006) [Accessed 8 Nov. 2006]

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). 24 October 2006. "Country Profile: Trinidad and Tobago." [Accessed 7 Nov. 2006]

Caribbean Net News [Cayman Islands]. 16 October 2006. Stephen Cummings. "Trinidad's Murder Rate Climbs to 301." [Accessed 26 Oct. 2006]
_____. 28 September 2006. "Trinidad PM Stresses Drug Trafficking and Illegal Arms Trade as Top Security Challenges." [Accessed 26 Oct. 2006]

Freedom House. 7 September 2006. "Trinidad and Tobago." Freedom in the World 2006. [Accessed 2 Nov. 2006]

George Mason University [Fairfax, Virginia]. 29 April 2005. Lori Jennings. "Mason Experts Called in to Help Policing in Trinidad and Tobago." The Mason Gazette. [Accessed 2 Nov. 2006]

United Kingdom (UK). 2 October 2006. Foreign and Commonwealth Office. "Trinidad and Tobago." Country Profiles. [Accessed 2 Nov. 2006]

United States (US). 8 March 2006. Department of State. "Trinidad and Tobago." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2005. [Accessed 2 Nov. 2006]
_____. March 2006. Vol. 1. Department of State. "The Caribbean." International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR 2006). [Accessed 2 Nov. 2006]

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet sites, including: Center for Contemporary Conflict (CCC), government of Trinidad and Tobago, Human Rights Watch (HRW), Transparency International, The Trinidad Guardian [Port-of-Spain], Trinidad and Tobago Express[Port-of-Spain], Trinidad and Tobago's Newsday [Port-of-Spain].

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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