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Responses to Information Requests (RIRs) cite publicly accessible information available at the time of publication and within time constraints. A list of references and additional sources consulted are included in each RIR. Sources cited are considered the most current information available as of the date of the RIR.            

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24 January 2014


Trinidad and Tobago: Government efforts to fight crime, including organized crime and gangs; state protection offered to victims, including effectiveness and resources (2012-January 2014)

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa

1. Crime: Overview

The US Department of State Trinidad and Tobago 2013 Crime and Safety Report states that Trinidad and Tobago's crime rate is "'critical'" (US 29 Jan. 2013, 1). The Canadian government states on its travel information website that Trinidad and Tobago has a "high crime rate" (17 Jan. 2014). The Trinidad and Tobago 2013 Crime and Safety Report notes that "violent crime is a concern for the local security services and the general population" (US 29 Jan. 2013, 1). "[V]iolent" robberies and assault are reported to occur "frequently" (Canada 17 Jan. 2014; US 29 Jan. 2013, 1).

The Trinidad and Tobago 2013 Crime and Safety Report states that "most reported crimes [in Trinidad and Tobago] occur within the metropolitan areas of Port of Spain and San Fernando" (US 29 Jan. 2013, 2).

The Trinidad and Tobago 2013 Crime and Safety Report says that, "in August 2011, the government [of Trinidad and Tobago] implemented a State of Emergency (SoE) to deal with what they deemed as specific and emerging crime threats," which was lifted on 6 December 2011 (US 29 Jan. 2013, 2). The UN Human Rights Council notes in its Universal Periodic Review of Trinidad and Tobago that the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago described the imposition of the state of emergency as a "'war on crime'" (14 Dec. 2011, 4). However, Freedom House states, in Freedom in the World 2013, that "serious crime rates rose again in 2012" (2013).

The Trinidad and Tobago 2013 Crime and Safety Report states there were a reported 182 kidnappings in 2012 (US 29 Jan. 2013, 4).

Sources report that 405 people were murdered in Trinidad and Tobago in 2013 (Trinidad Express 6 Jan. 2014; CMC 8 Jan. 2014). The Trinidad Express, a Trinidad and Tobago newspaper (Trinidad Express n.d.), reports that the National Security minister stated that "six out of every ten people murdered [in 2013] were involved in 'serious criminal activities'" (6 Jan. 2014). The National Security minister said further that "the majority of murders committed in [Trinidad and Tobago] in 2013 [were] criminals killing criminals" (ibid.). The Trinidad Express reports that, of the 405 murders in 2013, "47 were drug related" (6 Jan. 2014). The Trinidad and Tobago 2013 Crime and Safety Report states that "the murder rate continues to be driven primarily by gang and drug related activities" (US 29 Jan. 2013, 1). The report states that "the majority of violent criminal activity (i.e., homicides, kidnappings, assaults, sexual assaults, etc.) in Trinidad is gang/drug-related" (ibid.). However, sources report that, in 2013, the acting Commissioner of Police stated that "violent crimes have been reduced by 33 per cent" (Trinidad and Tobago Guardian 11 Dec. 2013; CMC 16 Dec. 2013b)

Sources state that there were 19 or 20 murders within the first 7 days of 2014 (Caribbean News Now 8 Jan. 2014; Trinidad and Tobago Guardian 9 Jan. 2014).

2. Gang-related Violence

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) Caribbean Human Development Report 2012 states that, in Trinidad and Tobago, "there have been several drug-trafficking networks, some of which have evolved into organized crime groups" (UN 2012, 72).

The UNDP report states that the Trinidad and Tobago police have identified "95 gangs and approximately 1,269 gang members" (ibid., 69). Other sources, reporting in 2013, write that more than 100 criminal gangs have been identified (COHA 11 Oct. 2013; US 29 Jan. 2013, 2).

IHS Global Insight, self-described as a global information company (IHS Global Insight n.d.), reports that the "influence of criminal gangs is strongest within impoverished 'garrison' communities [shantytowns, the Caribbean equivalent of a ghetto or a favela (UN and World Bank Mar. 2007, 133)] located in urban areas," particularly in the "centre and to the east of Port of Spain" (ibid. 29 Oct. 2013). The Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA), a "non-profit, tax-exempt independent research and information organization" based in Washington, DC (COHA n.d.), reports that gangs, particularly in high risk areas "like the capital and Laventille, have become so institutionalized that they pose a threat to - and even control in some cases - the republic's crucial infrastructures" (ibid. 11 Oct. 2013). Further, COHA describes gangs in Trinidad and Tobago as "societal institutions that go beyond social purposes, and are coming to resemble governments in and of themselves" (ibid.). The 2012 UNDP report states that, in Trinidad and Tobago,

the formal social control mechanisms in some neighbourhoods have broken down to the point that criminal groups are now providing many vital social services - such as policing, welfare services and even education - that state institutions can no longer adequately provide. (2012, 89)

The Trinidad Express reports that, of the 405 murders in 2013, 197 were "gang related" (6 Jan. 2014). The UNDP report says that gang-related homicides in Trinidad and Tobago are "substantial and increasing" (UN 2012, 73). IHS Global Insight reports that "most murders tend to be targeted killings, directly or indirectly related to gangs" (29 Oct. 2013).

The US Trinidad and Tobago 2013 Crime and Safety Report states that gangs have been linked to weapons smuggling and fraud and "other organized criminal activities" (29 Jan. 2013, 2).

3. State Protection

The Trinidad and Tobago 2013 Crime and Safety Report states that "many crimes go unreported. Further, there are instances in which crimes are reported, but not documented" (US 29 Jan. 2013, 1-2). Corroboration could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

The 2012 UNDP report notes the Police Service has developed the Citizen Security Programme, which seeks to strengthen the Ministry of National Security and the police service, and "coordinate community-based preventative strategies" (UN 2012, 147). The Government of Trinidad and Tobago states that this program "aims to contribute to the reduction of crime and violence at a community level" (Trinidad and Tobago n.d.).

The US Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012 states that Trinidad and Tobago's Anti-Gang Act bans membership in criminal gangs and gang-related activities (19 Apr. 2013, 4). COHA notes, however, that the "'Anti-Gang Act of 2011' has proven to be ineffective" as gangs are "hard to define," especially when entrenched in society (11 Oct. 2013).

Sources report that the Government of Trinidad and Tobago had given approval to create the Rapid Response Unit (RRU) to improve police response times to crimes (IHS Global Insight 4 Sept. 2013; Share 28 Aug. 2013), which was launched in January 2014 (Caribbean News Now 9 Jan. 2014).

On 28 August 2013, Share, a newspaper about Caribbean news based in Toronto (Share n.d.), reported that the Government of Trinidad and Tobago has created a specialized training program for Special Reserve Police (SRP) officers. The Trinidad Express reports that the SRP service was "formed to provide a body comprising persons who are otherwise employed but who, out of civic responsibility," assist the police on a part-time basis (1 Nov. 2012). The Trinidad Express reports that they have increasingly been used full-time due to an "increasing demand" for manpower (1 Nov. 2012).

On 4 September 2013, IHS Global Insight reported that, after a violent 72-hour period in which 12 people were murdered and a resident of Beetham Gardens was shot by police, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago increased patrols in "crime hotspots" in Beetham Gardens and Laventille, mounted roadblocks around these areas, and increased the deployment of CCTV [closed-circuit television] cameras.

The Trinidad and Tobago 2013 Crime and Safety Report states the Government of Trinidad and Tobago provided the Police Service with more police cruisers, renovated its stations, and recruited new officers (US 29 Jan. 2013, 4).

The Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago announced at the opening of a new police station in November 2013 that the government has upgraded its National Security Operations Centre to facilitate intelligence gathering (Trinidad and Tobago 26 Nov. 2013).

On 16 December 2013, the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC), a Caribbean multimedia organization (CMC n.d.), reported that the National Security minister announced the launch of Virtual Police Officers (VIPO), a secure website where crimes can be reported to help people "feel safe to report information that can be turned into evidence" (ibid. 16 Dec. 2013a).

On 4 January 2014, Diálogo, a newspaper based in Florida (Diálogo n.d.), reported that the government of Trinidad and Tobago is planning to deploy the Trinidad and Tobago Defense Force (TTDF), the country's military, to assist the police in combating violent crime. The article notes that the bill permitting such use of the military had been passed by the lower house and was to be debated on 2 April 2014 (Diálogo 4 Jan. 2014).

3.1 Effectiveness of State Protection

COHA notes that "[a]lmost as harmful as gang activity is the inability of Trinidad & Tobago's government to effectively deal with it" (11 Oct. 2013). The UNDP report notes that the shortage of public resources and the strain on the police has resulted in reform programs not "achieving progress as quickly as desired" (UN 2012, 98). The Trinidad and Tobago 2013 Crime and Safety Report states that "an overburdened legal system, bureaucratic resistance to change, unemployment in marginal areas, the negative influence of gangs, and a growing illegal narcotics industry create significant barriers" to combatting crime (US 29 Jan. 2013, 4).

Freedom House states that Trinidad and Tobago "is believed to suffer from high-level corruption" (2013). Transparency International ranks Trinidad and Tobago 83rd out of 177 countries in its 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index (2013). COHA notes that gangs have "infiltrated the official government and created an alternative administration" (11 Oct. 2013). IHS Global Insight reports that opposition politicians in Trinidad and Tobago claim "that gang leaders had received government construction contracts" (29 Oct. 2013). Freedom House states that "corruption in the police force, which is often drug-related, is endemic, and inefficiencies result in the dismissal of some cases" (2013). On 16 December 2013, the CMC quoted the National Security minister as saying that "it is no secret that there are police officers on the payroll of gang members" (16 Dec. 2013a).

The UNDP report says the "excessive use of force by police is reportedly widespread, and 'mechanisms to hold members of the police service accountable for alleged abuses are weak' [AI Mar. 2011, 3]" (UN 2012, 134). Country Reports 2012 says that the government of Trinidad and Tobago

took some steps to punish security force members and other officials charged with killings or other abuse, but there continued to be a perception of impunity based on the open-ended nature of many investigations and the slow pace of criminal judicial proceedings in general. (19 Apr. 2013, 1)

Amnesty International says in its 2013 annual report that "there were continued reports of unlawful killings by police" (2013, 270).

3.2 Judiciary

Freedom House states that "the judicial branch is independent, though subject to some political pressure and corruption. Rising crime rates have produced a severe backlog in the court system" (2013). The UNDP report notes that, in Trinidad and Tobago, "inefficient court scheduling practices appear to contribute to case processing delays .... Delays in evidence processing in the nation's crime laboratory were responsible for holding up thousands of cases" (UN 2012, 123). Country Reports 2012 states that "lengthy pretrial detention resulting from heavy court backlogs and inefficiencies in the judicial system continued to be a problem" (US 19 Apr. 2013, 6).

The US Country Reports 2012 says that "prosecutors and judges stated that witness intimidation remained a problem" (ibid.). Corroboration could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

4. Social Programs

The UNDP report notes that, in the government's social crime prevention programs, it has "target[ed] youth at risk and communities of the urban poor" (UN 2012, 147).

However, COHA notes that gangs

take from the needy and control legitimate programs intended to help Trinidad & Tobago's populace as a whole. The nation's Unemployment Relief Program (URP) was created to provide assistance, in a productive way, to those who cannot make a living for themselves by "pay[ing] unemployed people to perform public service tasks like fixing sidewalks and drainss," but even this is believed to be under the control of street gangs and expropriated for crime funding, and a "number of homicides have been traced to URP-related conflicts" [quotations from Katz et al., Mar. 2011, 15]. (11 Oct. 2013)

Corroboration could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

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 sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Amnesty International. 2013. "Trinidad and Tobago." Amnesty International Report 2013: The State of the World's Human Rights. (POL 10/001/2013) <> [Accessed 22 Jan. 2014]

_____. March 2011. Trinidad and Tobago: Amnesty International Submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review, 12th Session of the UPR Working Group, October 2011. (AMR 49/005/2011) <> [Accessed 24 Jan. 2014]

Canada. 17 January 2014. "Trinidad and Tobago." <> [Accessed 17 Jan. 2014]

Carribean Media Corporation (CMC). 8 January 2014. Peter Richards. "Trinidadian Government Launches All-out Attack on Criminals as Murders Increase." (Factiva)

_____. 16 December 2013a. "Trinidadian Minister Launches Initiative to Deal With Escalating Crime." (Factiva)

_____. 16 December 2013b. "Trinidadian Premier Vows to Continue Fight Against Crime." (Factiva)

_____. N.d. "Welcome to Our Website. " <> [Accessed 21 Jan. 2014]

Carribean News Now. 9 January 2014. "Increased Violent Crime in Trinidad and Tobago Intolerable, Says PM." <> [Accessed 17 Jan. 2014]

Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA). 11 October 2013. Erika Johnson. "Gangs are the New Law in Urban Trinidad & Tobago." <> [Accessed 13 Jan. 2014]

_____. N.d. "About COHA." <> [Accessed 21 Jan. 2014]

Diálogo. 4 January 2013. Denis Chabrol. "Trinidad Enlists Soldiers to Combat Drug-Related Wave of Violent Crime." <> [Accessed 17 Jan. 2014]

_____. N.d. "About us." <> [Accessed 21 Jan. 2014]

Freedom House. 2013. "Trinidad and Tobago." Freedom in the World 2013. <> [Accessed 17 Jan. 2014]

IHS Global Insight. 29 October 2013. Arthur Dhont and James MacAulay. "Companies Face Increasing Reputational and Extortion Risks from Gang Proliferation in Trinidad and Tobago." (Factiva)

_____. 4 September 2013. Arthur Dhont. "Unrest in Trinidadian Capital Likely to Continue as Police Take Tough Line on Crime." (Factiva)

_____. N.d. "About IHS." <> [Accessed 21 Jan. 2014]

Katz, Charles M., Edward R. Maguire and David Choate. September 2011. "A Cross-National Comparison of Gangs in the United States and Trinidad and Tobago." International Criminal Justice Review. Vol. 21, No. 3.

Share. 28 August 2013. "Political Parties Join Forces to Combat Crime in T&T." <> [Accessed 17 Jan. 2014]

_____. N.d. "About us." <> [Accessed 17 Jan. 2014]

Transparency International. 2013. "Corruption Perceptions Index 2013." <> [Accessed 20 Jan. 2014]

Trinidad and Tobago. 26 November 2013. Office of the Prime Minister. "Speaking Notes of the Hon. Prime Minister at the Handing Over Ceremony for the New Arima Police Station." <> [Accessed 17 Jan. 2014]

_____.N.d. ttconnect. "Citizen Security Programme (CSP)." < ttconnect/Citizen/role/aparent/educationandtraining/citizen+security+programme+%28csp%29> [Accessed 17 Jan. 2014]

Trinidad and Tobago Guardian. 9 January 2014. "PSC, Top Cop in Talks Today on Crime." <> [Accessed 17 Jan. 2014]

_____. 11 December 2013. Geisha Kowlessar. "Top cop: Violent Crimes Down but Murders Still Challenging." <> [Accessed 17 Jan. 2014]

Trinidad Express. 6 January 2014. Joel Julien. "Gary: Criminals Killing Criminals." <> [Accessed 13 Jan. 2014]

_____. 1 November 2012. Keino Swamber. "SRPs Lose Appeal for Equity With Cops." <> [Accessed 22 Jan. 2014]

_____. N.d. "Contact us." <> [Accessed 21 Jan. 2014]

United Nations (UN). 2012. UN Development Programme (UNDP). Caribbean Human Development Report 2012: Human Development and the Shift to Better Citizen Security. <> [Accessed 17 Jan. 2014]

_____. 14 December 2011. Human Rights Council. Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Trinidad and Tobago. (A/HRC/19/7) <,UNHRC,,TTO,4f269a482,0.html> [Accessed 17 Jan. 2014]

United Nations (UN) and World Bank. March 2007. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and Latin America and Caribbean Region of the World Bank. Crime, Violence, and Development: Trends, Costs, and Policy Options in the Caribbean. (Report No. 37820) <> [Accessed 24 July 2014]

United States (US). 19 April 2013. Department of State. "Trinidad and Tobago". Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012. <> [Accessed 17 Jan. 2014]

_____. 29 January 2013. Department of State, Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Trinidad and Tobago 2013 Crime and Safety Report. <> [Accessed 17 Jan. 2014]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Attempts to contact the following persons and organizations were unsuccessful within the time constraints of this Response: Amnesty International Caribbean; Organization for Abused and Battered Individuals; Trinidad and Tobago – Ministry of Justice, Police Service; United Kingdom – High Commission in Port of Spain; United States – OSAC Country Council Information in Port of Spain.

Internet sites, including: Canada – Public Safety; CARICOM; Carib Daily; Caribbean Net News;; Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU); Human Rights Watch; International Crisis Group, Jane's Intelligence Review; Trinidad & Tobago – National Security; Police Service, Police Service Commission; UN – Integrated Regional InformationNetworks, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Refworld; United States – Passports and International Travel.