International Narcotics Report …DEAL WITH JUDICIAL SYSTEM

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We in Trinidad and Tobago know it. Now the 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report says the same thing.

The United States State Department’s report, just released, has suggested that in order to deter drug traffickers, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago should implement reforms and programs to expedite prosecutions and persist with a more evidence-based criminal justice system to enable convictions.

The following is the report on Trinidad and Tobago:

A. Introduction

Trinidad and Tobago’s open coastline and direct transportation routes to Europe, Canada, and the United States make it an ideal location for cocaine and marijuana transshipment. Illegal drug shipments appeared to increase in 2015, mainly originating from Trinidad’s southern neighbors. Marijuana is locally produced and is the most widely used drug domestically, but other drugs, including cocaine, heroin, and MDMA (ecstasy) are also available.

Robust interdiction efforts in 2015 resulted in an increased overall volume of drug seizures. The Government of Trinidad and Tobago continues to progress in its ability to investigate and prosecute complex drug cases that target criminal networks. Commitment to drug demand reduction is strong but rehabilitation capacity remains under-resourced to meet local demand for treatment. Corruption and gaps in legislative and organizational implementation are challenges to the country’s efforts to curb the trafficking and use of illegal narcotics.

B. Drug Control Accomplishments, Policies, and Trends

1. Institutional Development

Trinidad and Tobago demonstrates continued commitment to drug control through bilateral cooperation with the United States and intelligence sharing with countries of origin, transit, and destination. The Government of Trinidad and Tobago regularly communicates with local, regional, and international organizations, collaborating on international and national priorities. Trinidad and Tobago’s drug control institutions, however, are challenged by deficiencies in staffing and funding. Distrust within and between certain units of law enforcement, the military, and the intelligence community impedes effective inter-agency information sharing and collaboration.

Counter-narcotic units receive support from international donors in specialized training and equipment. Improvements in investigating and prosecuting drug cases illustrate the effectiveness of international support, and the growing ability of Trinidad and Tobago’s law enforcement and investigative units to innovate and track highly flexible criminal networks.

Trinidad and Tobago has mutual legal assistance treaties with the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Trinidad and Tobago maintains a narcotics control and law enforcement letter of agreement with the United States and a maritime law enforcement agreement that enables the United States to patrol Trinidad and Tobago’s waters, overfly territorial sea and detain vessels suspected of trafficking drugs. Since 1999, an extradition treaty has been in force between Trinidad and Tobago and the United States. Although extraditions from Trinidad and Tobago can take one or more years to complete, the treaty remains an effective way to return fugitives to the United States for prosecution. In 2015, several fugitives were returned to the United States from Trinidad and Tobago for prosecution, including a major narcotics trafficker.

2. Supply Reduction

Marijuana is the only known locally-produced illicit drug. Production is concentrated on small farms in the heavily forested, mountainous regions. Local producers compete with imports from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Jamaica, Guyana, and Venezuela.

Other illicit drugs – primarily cocaine, but also small amounts of heroin and ecstasy – are trafficked through the country by transnational organized crime groups operating in Trinidad and Tobago, exploiting its close proximity to Venezuela and vulnerabilities at ports of entry. The main destination for these substances is the European market.

In collaboration with several international partners, Trinidad and Tobago law enforcement entities seized 2,541 kilograms (kg) of marijuana and 392 kg of cocaine in 2015, an increase compared to 471 kg and 83 kg of these respective drugs in 2014. The Trinidad and Tobago Transnational Crime Unit, collaborating with law enforcement, international partners, and the Coast Guard, plays a significant role in the increased detection and interception of illegal drugs.

3. Public Information, Prevention, and Treatment

Information on drug-use trends in Trinidad and Tobago is anecdotal, and the government is seeking to conduct a survey over the coming years to acquire empirical data on drug usage. It is widely accepted, however, that drug use occurs across all socio-economic classes in Trinidad and Tobago. The primary drug used is marijuana, and the second most-frequently used drug is cocaine, including “crack” cocaine. Drug treatment professionals assess that drug usage is increasing among youth.

There are approximately 29 drug treatment programs in Trinidad and Tobago supported by the government, non-governmental organizations, religious groups, and hospitals. Challenges remain in integrating existing criminal justice, healthcare, welfare and education systems to effectively treat drug use disorders, and there is a need to train more prevention specialists and treatment service providers to accredited standards.

In 2014, Trinidad and Tobago launched its National Supply Reduction Strategy 2014 – 2024, designed to reduce the illicit production and trafficking of drugs and to promote related control measures. Drug prevention efforts include school-based education programs; training for educators; anti-drug media campaigns; and special outreach events. Trinidad and Tobago successfully piloted an alternative drug treatment sentencing program in 2014 that produced its first graduates and continues to successfully expand the program. The government also continues to collaborate with the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD).

With U.S. support, CICAD provides technical assistance to the government’s drug treatment and prevention systems, including training and support to treatment facilities. In September, Trinidad and Tobago launched its Adolescent Drug Treatment Program to train professionals who interact with adolescents to identify and treat alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use. There is also continued progress with implementing the Regional Counter Drug Intelligence Training School, which graduated its first training class in November 2015.

4. Corruption

The Government of Trinidad and Tobago neither directly encourages nor facilitates the illicit production or distribution of drugs nor the laundering of proceeds from the sale of illicit drugs. No charges of drug-related corruption were filed against senior government officials in 2015. Media and anecdotal reports of drug-related corruption in the ranks of the Police Service, Prisons, Defense Force, Customs and Excise Division, and port employees are common.

The Police Complaints Authority, an independent law enforcement oversight body, recorded 317 complaints, including perverting the course of justice, fraud, corruption and extortion in 2015.

C. National Goals, Bilateral Cooperation, and U.S. Policy Initiatives

The United States supports a wide range of efforts designed to address crime and violence affecting citizens in Trinidad and Tobago, primarily through the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI). CBSI is a security partnership between the United States and Caribbean nations that seeks to substantially reduce illicit trafficking, advance public safety and citizen security, and promote social justice. CBSI programming in Trinidad and Tobago focuses on law enforcement and military capacity building, juvenile justice, and demand reduction.

CBSI regional projects are also underway in maritime and aerial domain awareness; law enforcement information-sharing; law enforcement capacity-building; corrections reform; criminal justice reform; preventing financial crimes; demand reduction; and reducing illicit trafficking in firearms. The Government of Trinidad and Tobago is an active partner in CBSI programs.

D. Conclusion

The entities and individuals working to combat narcotics trafficking in Trinidad and Tobago face considerable institutional challenges. However, there were considerable accomplishments in 2015 that included successful investigations and increased interdictions, extraditions of known narcotics traffickers, and improved international cooperation. In order to continue its success and deter traffickers, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago should implement reforms and programs to expedite prosecutions and persist with a more evidence-based criminal justice system to enable convictions.

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