750 people reported missing annually in T&T

Trinidad Guardian:-  A Miss­ing Per­sons Unit (MPU), with spe­cial­ist in­ves­ti­ga­tors, is crit­i­cal­ly need­ed in T&T to deal with the scores of miss­ing per­sons cas­es and to al­so deal with cold cas­es. The for­mer head of the Na­tion­al Op­er­a­tions Cen­tre, Com­man­der Garvin Heer­ah said the unit was nec­es­sary as there was a dis­tinct dif­fer­ence be­tween kid­nap­pings/ab­duc­tions and miss­ing per­sons.

Ac­cord­ing to 2015 sta­tis­tics, the T&T Po­lice Ser­vice (TTPS) in­ves­ti­gates an av­er­age of 750 “miss­ing per­sons” cas­es an­nu­al­ly. It is be­lieved that that num­ber has sig­nif­i­cant­ly in­creased.

From Jan­u­ary 2002 to April 2018, there have been 389 kid­nap­ping cas­es for ran­som re­port­ed in T&T. From Jan­u­ary 2013 to April 2018 there were 533 cas­es of kid­nap­pings re­port­ed.

Heer­ah said both de­mand­ed dif­fer­ent ap­proach­es, pro­ce­dures, and best prac­tice.

Heer­ah, an ex­pert in Home­land Se­cu­ri­ty and Safe City Con­cept, said the ded­i­cat­ed MPU need­ed to be equipped with mod­ern tools of the trade and “aligned with an in­ter­na­tion­al coun­ter­part that can pro­vide train­ing and de­vel­op­ment in prac­ti­cal in­ves­ti­ga­tion sce­nar­ios”.

Heer­ah’s call for an MPU comes just days af­ter the res­cue of Na­tal­ie Pol­lon­ais from the hands of ab­duc­tors. Pol­lon­ais was snatched af­ter leav­ing the gym at C3 Cen­tre in south Trinidad, and un­der the guid­ance of Com­mis­sion­er of Po­lice Gary Grif­fith she was ex­tract­ed days lat­er.

Heer­ah ex­plained that miss­ing per­sons in­ves­ti­ga­tions was not just sim­ply about lo­cat­ing peo­ple you can­not find. He said even though there had been count­less cas­es of run­aways and flee­ing from emo­tion­al abuse, there ex­ist­ed le­git­i­mate crim­i­nal links in peo­ple termed “gone miss­ing”.

“Po­lice do the very best they can, but let’s be hon­est, they have to pri­or­i­tize based on the es­ca­lat­ing crime rates we have to­day,” he said.

Heer­ah strong­ly be­lieves that the ex­is­tence of cold cas­es was al­so pos­ing a sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenge to the TTPS, es­pe­cial­ly with lim­it­ed spe­cial­ist man­pow­er re­sources.

He sug­gest­ed that po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tions could be aid­ed by fam­i­lies hir­ing pri­vate in­ves­ti­ga­tors who can ded­i­cate re­sources to find­ing a miss­ing per­son.

“Pri­vate in­ves­ti­ga­tors can start look­ing for a miss­ing per­son as soon as you be­come wor­ried, im­me­di­ate­ly in oth­er words, where­as lo­cal law en­force­ment must wait un­til a pe­ri­od of time has passed be­fore some­one can be re­port­ed as ac­tu­al­ly “miss­ing,” Heer­ah said.

“This is un­for­tu­nate be­cause in many cas­es, by pol­i­cy and pro­ce­dure the miss­ing child or adult can be fa­tal­ly harmed be­fore law en­force­ment has the op­por­tu­ni­ty to even re­spond,” he added.

These types of in­ves­ti­ga­tions, Heer­ah said, de­mand­ed in­tense re­search skills and crime map­ping (the re-cre­ation of crime scenes, in the case of cold cas­es) that war­rant­ed spe­cial­ism and best prac­tices.

“The im­por­tance of this ini­tia­tive, how­ev­er, is it must be suc­cess dri­ven and in­volve con­sis­tent in­ter­ac­tion and di­a­logue with fam­i­ly.”

‘The first few hours crit­i­cal’

Grif­fith re­cent­ly ex­plained that with re­gards to kid­nap­ping cas­es, the first few hours were crit­i­cal but added that there was a greater pos­si­bil­i­ty in which that per­son can be res­cued.

Where­as with miss­ing cas­es, he said it was “a bit more dif­fi­cult”.

The CoP pre­ferred not to dis­cuss any spe­cif­ic amend­ments to the struc­ture of the TTPS with­out li­ais­ing with the rel­e­vant of­fi­cers and un­til com­plet­ing re­search.

How­ev­er, Grif­fith as­sured that the re­cent high tech­nol­o­gy used in the “ex­tract­ing” of Pol­lon­ais, the same will be used in any oth­er cas­es. He al­so gave the as­sur­ance that no miss­ing per­son cas­es were closed.

“It is ir­rel­e­vant as to ge­o­graph­i­cal lo­ca­tion, eth­nic­i­ty and wealth…the same ef­fort put in for Mrs Pol­lon­ais will be done for any oth­er case to en­sure that each and every per­son is brought back to their loved ones,” Grif­fith said.

“A few days ago an MP ap­proached me about a miss­ing per­son and he asked if we are go­ing to put the same ef­fort and we did and the po­lice found out that the per­son ran away with a friend but every sin­gle per­son who is miss­ing with­in the first 24 hours, we would do every­thing with our re­sources to en­sure they are brought back to their fam­i­lies…No miss­ing per­son re­port is closed un­til there is clo­sure.”

Grif­fith re­vealed that soon there will be the re­vamp­ing of the E999 Unit where there will be a new fleet of over 100 ve­hi­cles. He al­so em­pha­sised that these ve­hi­cles will be equipped with tech­nol­o­gy. “This will work to­wards de­ter­rents, rapid re­sponse, and high vis­i­bil­i­ty…this unit will as­sist in the re­duc­ing of crime and in the tak­ing away of the per­cep­tion and fear of crime.”

Kid­nap­pings for Ran­som

2018 – 4

2017 – 6

2016 – 3

2015 – 4

2014 – 3

2013 – 3

2012 – 5

2011 – 2

2010 – 4

2009 – 6

2008 – 11

2007 – 155

2006 – 17

2005 – 58

2004 – 28

2003 – 51

2002 – 29

Kid­nap­pings

2018 – 44 (Up to April)

2017 – 102

2016 – 75

2015 – 106

2014 – 94

2013 – 112

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