Friday, February 14, 2014

To Protect and Serve Those Who Pay

With the escalation of murders, drug trafficking and general criminality the government is focused not on improving detection and prosecution rates but rather on transforming the police service into a paramilitary force that has veered away from protecting and serving the greater population. Instead the police service has become an agency of mere theatre. 

This description is substantiated not by what the police and their handlers say but rather by what they have done and are doing. It is evident that their true priorities are not to prosecute real crimes, like murder, rape, burglary, assault, fraud etc. This is demonstrated by the terribly low detection and prosecution rates.

Who Pays The Piper......

The above is a predictable outcome as the police service has little incentive to serve the general public because a profit and loss market reality where profit motive drives service doesn't apply. Meanwhile; the desires of the citizenry are rendered virtually irrelevant after election day as there is no procedure by which voters can remove an elected politician or police official from office before his or her term has ended.

Moreover, the political class is apathetic to the real security needs of the country because they are largely insulated from criminality since they are afforded security details, can afford private security or actually profit from criminality. National security priorities are therefore not determined based on the public's wishes but rather on the whims of the state or the police officers themselves.

Consequently tremendous resources are channelled to prosecuting drug trafficking and drug possession including resources spent related to the courts, clerks, court administrators, bailiffs, preparation of reports, prosecutors, public defenders, police officers, witnesses, prisoner transport, prisons etc.

All this occurs not because it is desired by the public but because it is the most lucrative of available activities from which bounties, bribes and blackmail can be extorted. 

Authorities seemingly rigorously pursue drug related crimes because it ultimately places them in a privileged position to protect certain drug gangs / kingpins and their turf and drive out competitors for the appropriate fee. They can also solicit payment to turn a blind eye to drug trafficking activity. Consequently the police favour involving themselves in drug cases over home burglaries, murders or assaults. 

Reasoned Arguments Against Current Drug Policy Are Futile

The fight against drug trafficking is a fool's errand -because when people vehemently want something and are willing to pay, the market will supply it one way or another, and no practical level of law enforcement will prevent people from using drugs they desire.

Despite these compelling arguments one shouldn't expect the drug war to end anytime soon as there's tremendous vested economic interest and livelihoods that benefit from policing the drug trade. Hence, reasoned arguments against the war on drugs are futile. 



Give Us More Funding, More Hardware

Apart from the drug war being the most lucrative source of police corruption; the provision of equipment and consumables to the police service is also very profitable. The spiraling crime situation then validates the excessive spending on military style helicopters, water-craft, assault rifles, full body armour, combat gear, military weaponry, technology and tactics to the tune of billions of dollars.

Strangely the police and the relevant decision makers don't value as much; education and training, related to improving detection and prosecution rates. Instead they value "hardware", bigger guns, more vehicles, more buildings, drones, blimps and helicopters. Anything bureaucrats could use to make them look more fearsome and intimidating while providing ample opportunity to surreptitiously siphon funds into their own pockets via these massive contracts.

Private Solutions

Given the failure of the state provided security services, citizens are increasingly supplementing the government police by implementing private security initiatives for their personal protection including buying firearms, burglar alarms, guard dogs, burglar proofing, surveillance cameras, neighborhood watches, fortified fences, GPS tracking, private security patrolling and rapid response etc. All these signal growing dissatisfaction and belief that the government is unable to control crime.

The rise in private crime control is also illustrated by the growing number of enclosed shopping malls, office complexes, and gated communities created with security as one design goal. In fact a 1992 statistical study by Edwin Zedlewski, a senior advisor to the US National Institute of Justice, comparing public and private security in 124 Standard Metropolitan Statistical Areas, found that devoting more resources to public police didn't seem to deter more crime, while devoting more to private security did.

Further, in Kensington, South Africa a middle-class Johannesburg suburb, residents have contracted with a private security firm, for armed protection. The firm hired about 90 previously unemployed men to patrol the streets, covering some 3,500 homes. Each street has its own bank account, and residents contribute to pay for the guard on their street. At the same time, residents save money as a result of falling household insurance rates.

Locally, Valsayn is a prime example of private security solutions, where residents pay a monthly subscription for regular security patrols and rapid response in their community by private security personnel with much success. As far as the Valsayn residents are concerned this system renders the police service redundant in their area. 

Recommendations

Trinidad and Tobago should begin to gradually scale back the budget and scope of the police service especially as it relates to policing the drug trade and focus on real crimes where victims are actually violated. In 2013 the TTPS spent $1.8 billion or 3% of T&T GDP or $2,889 per taxpayer. Similarly, the Ministry of National Security spent $2.9 billion or 5% of GDP or $4,555 per taxpayer. In addition the Ministry of Justice also spent $857 million or $1,400 per taxpayer. Over $8,000 per taxpayer for poor results doesn't cut it. Instead incentives should be instituted to encourage private security spending, which offers a more effective solution to the crime scourge. 

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