Two of Trinidad and Tobago’s largest gangs agreed to a truce after nearly a month of reprisal killings, but unlike violence prevention initiatives, truces have proven to be temporary and ineffective at reducing bloodshed.
On November 18, the Sixx and Rasta City gangs reached a ceasefire agreement following a wave of assassinations that started on October 29 and led to at least 10 homicides. The two groups have been bitter rivals since the Sixx gang split off from Rasta City in 2017.
The assassinations are a direct consequence of this rivalry. These gangs “try to settle disagreements through violence, and one act of violence leads to reprisal killings,” an official from the country’s Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) told local media outlet Trinidad Express.
The leaders of both gangs have stated that they would like to uphold the truce and that they have no interest in continuing their war, according to the same IATF official.
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Gang truces are a common tactic for stemming outbreaks of violence in Port of Spain, the country’s capital and the stronghold of both gangs.
“Sixx and Rasta City reached two ceasefires in eastern Port of Spain. The first started around February  and lasted seven months. The second started in November and ended in October 2023,” reported a community mediator who spoke to InSight Crime on the condition of anonymity.
Trinidad and Tobago had 605 assassinations in 2022, making it the country’s deadliest year on record. The three primary drivers of these homicides were gangs (40%), drugs (15%), and revenge (14%), according to data from the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service.
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Unlike truces, which tend to be fragile and temporary, preventative measures have been more effective at reducing violence in Trinidad and Tobago. However, the success of these programs is often hindered by a lack of continuity.
Truces, such as the one reached recently, are reactive measures to increased gang violence that depend on the willingness of criminal actors to maintain them.
“Truces are part of the cycle of gang violence in Trinidad and Tobago. After a wave of murders, the gangs reach an agreement that sooner or later, is broken by an unexpected homicide, which in turn generates retaliatory murders,” said the community mediator.
Unlike truces, initiatives based on violence prevention have led to a more stable reduction in homicides. But the lack of continuity of these programs has disrupted their impact.
One of the preventive strategies that has proven successful is called Cure Violence, which treats violence as a public health problem and looks to stem its spread using preventive programming, such as the use of community mediators and “violence interrupters.”
Mediators identify potential violent conflicts and intervene before any violence takes place. Interrupters, on the other hand, liaise with both sides of a dispute in the 72 hours following an attack, with the goal of preventing reprisal killings and a subsequent wave of homicides.
One of the projects based on the Cure Violence model was called Project Resolve Enmity, Articulate Solutions, Organize Neighborhoods (REASON). The initiative was coordinated by the Ministry of National Security’s Citizen Security Programme and civil society actors, and was implemented between 2015 and 2017 in eastern Port of Spain.
The program was a success. During this two-year period, violent crime dropped by 45% in the 16 neighborhoods where REASON was implemented, according to an independent audit of the program’s results. Despite its apparent success, REASON’s funding was discontinued in 2017.
Between 2020 and 2022, the Ministry of National Security implemented another project called Building Blocks, which used the same approach as REASON. Building Blocks led to a reduction in shootouts, project manager Gary Grant told the local Guardian newspaper. Despite its success, this project was discontinued in December 2022.
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