Selected Issues

Abstract

Selected Issues

Tackling Crime in Trinidad and Tobago1

Crime in Trinidad and Tobago is multi-faceted and like in most countries, it imposes economic and social costs. The victims of violent crime are predominantly the youth. Such crimes also negatively impact the business environment. A balanced approach to deal with crime should include prevention and crime-control programs.

A. Topography

1. Statistics show that the homicide rate in Trinidad and Tobago is high on an international and regional scale. At 36 homicide cases per 100,000 population in 2017, this is almost 6 times higher than the world average and 1.5 times above the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region average.2 The situation continued to deteriorate in recent years due to an increase in the availability of illegal firearms and spill-overs from regional neighbors.

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Homicide rates per 100,000 population in Latin America and Caribbean countries 2015 or latest available year

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2018, 286; 10.5089/9781484378182.002.A003

Source: Official national sources in each country.
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Trinidad and Tobago: Import of Weapons and Homicide cases

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2018, 286; 10.5089/9781484378182.002.A003

Sources: UNComtrade and UNODC.

2. Youth are the most affected by violent crime, both as victims and as perpetrators. Homicide victims are predominantly youth between the ages of 18 and 35, and 60 percent of homicide arrests involve young people between 15 and 34 years old (Sutton, H. and I. Ruprah, 2017). As of end 2017, most reported crimes remain high compared to 2013. Robberies, burglaries, and property crimes are the main violent crimes. Though burglaries and property crimes declined by about 20 percent, shootings and murders increased by 30 and 20 percent, respectively. Further, a weak economy, gang activities, as well as corruption, contribute partially to the vicious cycle of low growth, lack of economic opportunities, and higher crime rates among young people.

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Trinidad and Tobago: Total Number of Crime by Offence Type

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2018, 286; 10.5089/9781484378182.002.A003

Source: Trinidad and Tobago Police Service.

3. Crime has significant social and economic costs. The direct crime-related costs in Trinidad and Tobago, which includes public and private spending on policing and securities, medical expenses, judicial procedures and forgone income, is about 3.5 percent of GDP, about the Latin American and Caribbean average, and compared to 2 percent in advanced economies (Jaitman and Torre 2017). Indirect costs include loss of productivity, distortions in resource allocation, and perception of safety, which affect investment.

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Growth and incidents of homicide

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2018, 286; 10.5089/9781484378182.002.A003

Sources: IMF and UNODC.
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Crime-related Costs

(in percent of GDP)

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2018, 286; 10.5089/9781484378182.002.A003

Source: Jaitman and Torre 2017.

4. Security-related issues have been identified as negatively affecting private sector performance. Almost 20 percent of firms indicated crime as a major or severe obstacle in conducting business in Trinidad and Tobago. Also, over 85 percent of firms in Trinidad and Tobago pay for security at the cost of around 2 percent of sales (Sutton, H., I. Ruprah and L. Alvarez, 2017). A study from the Inter-American Development Bank shows that a 10 percent reduction in crime can increase firms’ sales by 4 percent (Ruprah and Sierra 2016).

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Crime as a Major or Severe Obstacle to the Private Sector

(in percent of firms)

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2018, 286; 10.5089/9781484378182.002.A003

Source: Producticity, Technology, and Innovation Survey, 2014.

B. Fighting Crime

5. Efforts to fight crime should balance crime-control programs and preventive measures. Security spending in Trinidad and Tobago, like in many other Caribbean countries, is concentrated more on law enforcement and correction than prevention. It also represents a large share in percent of government expenditure compared to other Caribbean countries. Lowering crime can have important growth benefits (about 0.35 percent of GDP in Trinidad and Tobago; Chamon et al. 2017).

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Security Spending

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2018, 286; 10.5089/9781484378182.002.A003

Source: Caribbean Human Development Report 2012.
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Reinvigorating Growth: Illustrative Medium-Term Growth Gains

(in percent of total government expenditure)

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2018, 286; 10.5089/9781484378182.002.A003

Source: Chamon et al. (2017).

6. Addressing the vicious cycle of elevated levels of youth unemployment and high crime requires a multi-pronged approach, balancing policing and preventions. Such measures include focusing on education and community-based initiatives involving partnership with key stakeholders, including civil society (parenting and mentoring programs, urban renewal programs, and victims’ support), the private sector (through training at-risk youth, building corporate social responsibility, and sponsoring victimization surveys, as only about half of crimes are reported to the public agencies).

7. The government is putting crime reduction and increasing detection rate as its top priority. The authorities are adopting a preventative approach to tackling crimes by:

  • Hotspot policing to reduce criminal activities in communities.

  • Partnering together with different stakeholders to identify and deter criminal activities, including, among others: A National Crime Prevention Program in 2018 that will integrate community involvement with traditional stakeholders, including law enforcement and government ministries, to provide a more holistic approach to stopping crime. Trinidad and Tobago Police Service has already implemented some of these community-based ideas by offering programs (e.g., sports through the Police Youth Clubs, Drug Awareness, Community Crime Prevention Program, school lectures and workshops with NGOs).

  • Building capacity of the police services, including a crime management system to analyze statistics to effectively fight crimes. A police manpower audit committee was set up in 2017 to maximize resource utilization.

  • Collaboration among national security agencies, especially in the areas of transitional crimes, money laundering, cybercrime, and human trafficking. The government also acquired new naval vessels for maritime enforcement, and with U.S. assistance will establish a border control system to better monitor international travelers.

  • A media campaign to increase citizens’ awareness about security-related issues.

8. Country experiences show that there is scope to enhance collaboration across entities involved in fighting crimes. For instance, Violence Prevention Alliance—as a network for organizations working to prevent violence—has a multi-point strategy to bring peace to some of Jamaica’s toughest communities. The Pacifying Police Unit was established in the City of Rio De Janeiro in Brazil in 2008, which aimed to reclaim territories controlled by gangs, leading to a reduction in city homicide rate (down by 43 percent) by 2012. In Colombia, the IADB along with private sector and academia have initiated a project to the test the value of Big Data in analyzing the causes of crime, and then develop more effective intentions to prevent crime.

References

  • Chamon, M. J. Charap, Q. Chen, and D. Leigh. 2017. “Reinvigorating Growth in the Caribbean.” Unleashing Growth and Strengthening Resilience in the Caribbean Book (Chapter 2). International Monetary Fund.

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  • Jaitman, L. and I. Torre, 2017 (a). “Part I. Estimation of Direct Costs of Crime and Violence.” In the Cost of Crime and Violence: New Evidence and Insights in Latin America and the Caribbean edited by L. Jaitman. Inter-American Development Bank, Washington, D.C.

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  • Sutton, H. and I. Ruprah, 2017. “Youth Violence and Delinquency: Reducing Risk and Enhancing Protection.” In Restore Paradise in the Caribbean: Combatting Violence with Numbers, edited by H. Sutton and I. Ruprah. Inter-American Development Bank, Washington, D.C.

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  • Sutton, H., I. Ruprah and L. Alvarez, 2017. “Crime and the Private Sector.” In Restore Paradise in the Caribbean: Combatting Violence with Numbers, edited by H. Sutton and I. Ruprah. Inter-American Development Bank, Washington, D.C.

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  • Sutton, H., L. Jaitman, and J. Khadan. 2017. “Violence in the Caribbean: Cost and Impact.” Unleashing Growth and Strengthening Resilience in the Caribbean Book (Chapter 15). International Monetary Fund.

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  • Ruprah, I., and R. Sierra. 2016. Engine of Growth? The Caribbean Private Sector Needs More Than An Oil Change. Inter-American Development Bank, Washington, D.C.

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  • Sutton, H., J. van Dijk, and J. van Kesteren. 2017. “The Size and Dimensions of Victimization in the Caribbean.” In Restore Paradise in the Caribbean: Combatting Violence with Numbers, edited by H. Sutton and I. Ruprah. Inter-American Development Bank, Washington, D.C.

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  • UNDP Caribbean Human Development Report 2012 Human Development and the Shift to Better Citizen Security.

  • Trinidad and Tobago Police Service. Statistics. http://www.ttps.gov.tt/Statistics/Comparison-By-Year.

1

Prepared by Abdullah AlHassan and Lulu Shui.

2

When compared globally, the LAC region ranks top in violent crimes and has the world’s highest homicide rates (Sutton, van Dijk, and van Kesteren, 2017).

Trinidad and Tobago: Selected Issues
Author: International Monetary Fund. Western Hemisphere Dept.