“The Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago has embarked on a Whole of Government and Whole of Society approach to gang reduction”. This, according to Senator the Honourable Donna Cox, Minister of Social Development and Family Services, who reinforced the Government’s commitment to positive community engagement as a critical strategy for sustainable security in at risk communities.
Minister Cox was at the time, delivering remarks, at the Reception for the Gang Reduction and Community Empowerment Project (Project GRACE), on September 21.
The reception provided a forum for all stakeholders involved in Project GRACE to learn more about the project and how to partner to support the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) in this endeavour. Project GRACE is a TTPS-led project, implemented by the Pan-American Development Foundation that seeks to help reduce gang related crime, by strengthening the relationship between the police and at-risk communities and deter and dissuade young persons from joining criminal gangs.
In delivering her remarks, Minister Cox extended her heartfelt gratitude to the Government of the United States of America, through the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law in the US Department of State (INL), for the sponsorship of this critical programme, and to the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF) for its technical support in the consultation phase and implementation of this project. “This project could not come at a better time. The INL has identified gang proliferation as a pervasive issue in Trinidad and Tobago” said Minister Cox.
Minister Cox further drew reference to data from the International Development Bank (IDB) showing that from 2010 to 2020, gangs were responsible for 31.8% of all murders in Trinidad and Tobago. She also noted that an IDB survey of inmates conducted in 2020 showed that while the recidivism rate for the general prison population was 47.7%, the recidivism rate for persons who resided in communities with gangs was 52.1% and the recidivism rate for gang members was 69.8%.
According to Minister Cox, “On July 18, 2022, Prime Minister, Dr. the Honourable Keith Christopher Rowley announced a plan to declare crime and criminality, a public health issue, with an intervention strategy designed to analyse and prescribe solutions to the pathological frameworks of crime and criminality, with particular emphasis on the youth. A Committee was established to undertake this initiative, and will be co-chaired by the Permanent Secretaries of both the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services and the Ministry of Health, with overseeing responsibility by the Office of Prime Minister, and strategic participation from the Ministry of National Security, the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service, the Ministry of Sport and Community Development, the Ministry of Education, and the Tobago House of Assembly.”
In conclusion, she expressed that the GRACE Project should lead to greater trust between at-risk communities and the TTPS, which can lead to improved intelligence-led policing capacity, and proven techniques in preventing and deterring violence criminal gang activity.
Also in attendance were Foster Cummings, Minister of Youth Development and National Service; Dr. Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, Minister of Education; McDonald Jacob, Ag. Commissioner of Police; Shante Moore, Charge D’Affaires at the Embassy of the United States of America; and other Diplomats from the US Embassy.
The Ministry of Social Development and Family Services looks forward to the commencement of the Gang Reduction and Community Empowerment Project, which will increase the safety and security of the nation.