THE drug trade is a scourge that has been driving criminal activity in Trinidad and Tobago for several years now; it has infiltrated every stratum of society and almost every type of criminal activity.
It is a significant aspect of international organised crime and is linked to the alarming murder rate (which stood at 73 persons after only 47 days of this year), torture, gang activity, money laundering, counterfeiting, human trafficking, illegal arms and ammunition, modern day slavery, sea piracy, assaults and robberies, to name but a few serious crimes. In the process it is undermining and threatening to destroy the very fabric of our society.
Last year, a newspaper cited the US Drug Enforcement Agency as stating that 14 percent of the cocaine bound for the USA in the first six months of 2013 was shipped through the Caribbean. The income to TT from this trade is significant, however, while there are no figures in the public domain, an educated guess must conclude that it runs into billions of dollars annually, finding its way into all areas of legitimate activity.
By contrast, it has created a new kind of poverty – the drug addict. Ill, often helpless, addicts may resist rehabilitative efforts, engage in petty crimes or drift into vagrancy, causing significant emotional and financial costs to their families. Frequently the families themselves are unable to cope – in every sense. For those who cannot afford it of course, the State must provide the safety net and professional services in the attempt to free addicts from their bondage. Very often, it fails.
That Trinidad and Tobago is a major transhipment point for drugs has been long known. In fact, the US State Department’s 2013 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report noted that TT is an “ideal location” due to its porous borders and direct transportation routes to Europe, Canada, and the United States. The Report further stated that “The entities and individuals working to combat narcotics in Trinidad and Tobago face considerable challenges and insufficient support from political leadership”. It went on to say that “reforms are necessary to expedite case prosecution, revise outdated laws, and establish an evidence-based criminal justice system as fundamental prerequisites for raising conviction rates and deterring traffickers”.
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