Crime is evolving in T&T and younger people, especially Generation Z (nine to 24-year-olds), are susceptible to new offences due to technology, economic deprivation, social media and the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This was the sentiment expressed by the head of the University of the West Indies (The UWI) criminology department, Dr Randy Seepersad, who told Guardian Media he was not surprised by the discovery of a methamphetamine (meth) lab at The Residences at South Park, San Fernando, on Thursday.
Special Branch police officers executed a search warrant at one of the modern luxury apartments around 6 am.
During the search, they found components assembled in the form of a secret laboratory.
A statement from the TTPS said officers also discovered cash, precursor chemicals and packets of crystals of various sizes resembling meth—a highly addictive stimulant that can cause dependency after just one use.
According to the United States National Institute on Drug Abuse, meth-users are at an increased risk of infections such as HIV and hepatitis B and C. Long-term use can lead to dental problems, itching that can cause skin sores, changes in brain structure, memory loss, paranoia and more.
Speaking in a telephone interview with Guardian Media, Seepersad said this discovery points to a new kind of drug on the market which could have deleterious effects on the population related to violence and crime.
He added that it can put a strain on the healthcare system and shatter families as addiction often does.
This lab, Seepersad said, could also be one of many.
“There could always be more. If somebody has the technology to do it and the know-how, chances are they could have disseminated that information to others. But it’s a very, very difficult thing to detect,” he noted.
“It is very, very troubling because it means that if somebody is manufacturing it, it will get out there into the environment, youths will start to use it, some people may even become addicted to it and that’s where the danger comes in,” he added.
The dangers Seepersad is referring to, arise from the demand created for the drug if it was being sold to consumers. He said this could give birth to more labs to close the gap caused by the loss of this one.
“Once you create a demand for something, then there’s going to be the need for supplying it and if there’s a supply vacuum—let’s say you manage to detect one meth lab and you take it down, but there’s a supply vacuum—somebody else is going to come in and fill that vacuum so there’s a very, very real danger of developing an addiction among certain groups of people for that particular product,” he said.
The criminologist further urged parents to be frank with their children about the dangers of drug use or risk losing them to addiction. This, as he acknowledged that some drugs cause an almost immediate addiction as the high fades quickly, leading users to take repeated doses.
“We have to talk to our children, tell them about drugs, educate them, don’t hide it. Talk to them about peer pressure and let them know that that one try, as tempting as it might be, that one try sometimes is all it takes to pull you down a path,” he cautioned.
Meanwhile, Seepersad is calling on the TTPS to work with the public to increase the detection of crimes, including drug-related offences.
“It goes both sides—on the side of the public and the side of the police—to really clamp down and to detect not just drug-related crimes but other types of crimes when they occur.”
Guardian Media reached out to the TTPS yesterday for further updates on the meth lab discovery but received no response.