Crime rates have been on the rise in Tobago as law enforcement on the island is suffering from a shortage of 100 police officers.
It was only August 6, that National Security Minister Martin Joseph confirmed a claim by Opposition Senator Wade Mark that while the required strength of the Police Service was some 7,691 officers, it had a manpower shortage of 1,334.
Joseph confirmed the shortfall in Tobago in the Senate on Wednesday evening in response to Independent Senator Annette Nicholson-Alfred who made the disclosure while contributing to the debate on the 2009/2010 budget as she also called on him to account for the delay in the construction of three new police stations in Tobago.
“I heard you with respect to the 100 police, shortage of police officers. It is something that is pervasive in the entire system and we are looking at things to see how best we can improve in terms of recruiting additional persons to assist in that regard but I heard you. I have made note of all what you have said,” Joseph said.
Nicholson-Alfred raised the issue early in her contribution to the Senate’s budget debate on Wednesday evening while Joseph was briefly absent from the Parliament Chamber.
She recalled the brutal cutlass attack against British retirees, 65-year-old Peter and 59-year-old Murium Greene, at their Bacolet Crescent, holiday home last month and the murder of husband and wife Bevan and Judith Toby of Runnemede, Tobago, who were burnt to death at their home on Sunday afternoon.
She also noted that there have been 12 homicides on the island for the year so far and said Joseph had in the Senate last year, “promised” that three new police stations would be constructed to replace those at Old Grange, Moriah and Roxborough.
“I thank the honourable Senator for giving way, especially as it relates to the question about the promise made by this Minister and Government with respect to the construction of police stations and part of the challenge is we are still to get access to the lands for Old Grange and also for Roxborough,” Joseph said.
He added that the Government had “extensive discussions” with the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) on the issue but “there a number of matters that are still outstanding”.
In addition to the crime problem, Nicholson-Alfred also addressed the proposed new property tax as she said that if the Government wanted to implement it, then it should keep its long-standing promise to regularise land ownership in Tobago since “over 70 per cent of the island’s residents have no proper titles for their properties.”