Trinidad and Tobago’s security minister has banned the release of crime reports and statistics, saying the data sensationalizes crime and spurs acts of violence, a dubious claim that reveals potential political motivations behind the move.
Security Minister Jack Warner, who in June 2011 stepped down from his three-decade post as vice minister of the world soccer body, FIFA, said in a statement that the temporary measure would “ensure that crime statistics are not sensationalized, thereby acting as a domino effect in certain hot spot areas,” according to the BBC.
“The issue is not about withholding the statistics. It is about the management of the sensitive information that has the potential to inflame additional crime — particularly when treating the issue of gangs,” he added
“They want to make news, they want to make headlines,” he said of criminals, reported the Associated Press.
The country’s police had not received official orders from Warner, acting police commissioner Stephen Williams told repoters. Williams said he would not withhold crime statistics, however, saying the release of such information was part of his legal obligation as commissioner. He added that the security ministry did not have authority to forbid the data’s release.
InSight Crime Analysis
Violent crime in Trinidad and Tobago has risen dramatically in the last decade, with homicides climbing from a rate of 9.3 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2000, to 35.2 per 100,000 in 2010, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
In August 2011, the government declared a temporary “state of emergency” due to concerns about rising drug related violence, granting police the power to make arrests without charges and conduct searches without warrants. It also imposed a 70-day nighttime curfew on residents, who faced fines or arrests if caught on the streets between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m.
Despite the rise over the last decade, homicide rates have actually experienced a continued downward trend in recent years after peaking at 41.1 per 100,000 in 2008. This makes Warner’s claim that publication of these statistics has the potential to “inflame” crime highly questionable and raises the likelihood that his proposal is more to shield the government from criticism it has been unable to return the island back to its comparatively peaceful past.