I fully support Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith’s proposal for pepper spray to be legally carried and used by women in distress or in dangerous situations.
I would even go further and suggest the police consider other personal protection devices, such as low-charge tasers, as well as screeching alarms that would temporarily immobilise or distract attackers, as well as attract attention.
Trinidad and Tobago began experiencing a crime spike in every category between 2000 and 2004, which has since then worsened to crisis levels. Many of the victims of crime lost their lives; and the ones who recovered, many women and children, still live with the terrifying memory.
Since the police commissioner’s proposal, I have researched the crime levels in the last two years and noted that in Trinidad and Tobago, our police have had a unit where tasers, sprays and perhaps other devices are being used as part of the fight against crime.
This should mean we have at least two years of data to gauge whether there is a chance that devices can be modified to ensure they are completely fit for purpose, and cannot, as with everything, be used inappropriately.
The facts now show that since the advent of this police unit, crime has abated at a remarkable level.
I found that the periods January to August 2019 and 2020 showed a 35-per cent decrease in total violent crimes, a 22-per cent decrease in murders and a 33-per cent decrease in shootings and woundings.
Of importance to the commissioner’s call is the fact that in the crime categories, ‘Rape, Incest and other Sexual Offences’, and ‘Serious Indecency’, crimes fell by 38 and 37 per cent, respectively.
With such progress being made, the police commissioner is completely correct in pushing further with measures to ensure criminal activities do not again spike.
With people being able to carry around legal, personal protection devices, we could find that criminals will think twice about committing crime.
It will provide women and young people, in particular, with a measure of confidence that even if they have a scary incident with a would-be attacker, they stand a good chance of disabling their attacker and retreating to safety.
More than that, reducing crime is a shared responsibility. We depend on the police to protect and serve, but the police must be able to depend on us as citizens to not turn a blind eye to theft, abuse, violence and illicit activities.
More importantly, the police must be able to depend on citizens to support appropriate new measures to restore the kind of safety we all want.
If I may suggest to the police: perhaps the law should consider making it a legal requirement to register the purchase of every personal protection device, at which time a form of licence is issued and carried at all times.
A similar arrangement obtains when we purchase mobile phones; you must use official identification because it is a communication device-a requirement when terrorism increased.
With tasers and sprays, they are effectively anti-crime devices and should also be registered to ensure good accounting for their distribution and use.
In whatever way the law is drafted, I think the legal use of personal protection devices, sprays in particular, is a welcome proposal from the police, which I hope is not only met with favour, but also expeditiously implemented.