CONSEQUENCES OF THE 1990 COUP: DRUG AND CRIME CULTURE
As a consequence of the destruction wrought in Port of Spain, the nature and culture of business went through a metamorphosis. Whereas prior to 1990, Port of Spain was a desirable centre of shopping for locals and visitors, after 1990, all that changed. The incidence of crime and violence became a frightening feature of daily life in Trinidad and Tobago. As a consequence, large numbers of shoppers from neighbouring islands sought other destinations, while the local population resorted to the several shopping malls which grew up as one of the consequences of the events of 1990.
A number of witnesses testified at the Commission of Enquiry (COE) about the changes in the type of crime and attitudes of criminals in Trinidad and Tobago. According to Senior Magistrate George Hislop, “1990 was a watershed in criminal activity”. Offenders in court exhibited “a confidence and swagger” and showed little respect for authority. “They were hostile and nasty; and used strong language”. This was especially true of curfew-breakers and the homeless. Prison provided opportunities for the inculcation of criminal learning processes from hardened criminals. Another witness stated that after 1990, a gun culture started in Trinidad and Tobago, and there were increases in murder, kidnappings, drugs and gang wars. After their first court appearances, accused persons seemed more conscious of their human and constitutional rights and were emboldened to assert these rights in subsequent appearances. Mr. Hislop was “sure that 1990 expanded the dimensions of crime”. There was also a noticeable increase in drug and firearm offences after 1990 and according to Lennox Smith criminologist and activist “crime was not as big a problem in Laventille as it is today. But the JAM “became evident in Laventille from about 1988”.
Criminal statistics obtained for the COE show that from the year 2002 the number of reported murders doubled vis-à-vis 1990, the crime of murder has consistently spiralled upward, reaching a high of 547 in 2008. Similarly, woundings and shootings exploded to 608 in 1993, then dipped to a low of 319 in 1998, only to rise consistently thereafter, reaching their highest level (801) in 2005.