Vi­o­lence-in­ter­rup­tion pro­gramme tar­gets at-risk youths

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS - Ryon Jones Staff Re­porter ryon.jones@glean­

BOL­STERED BY the suc­cess of the vi­o­lence-in­ter­rup­tion pro­gramme in St Cather­ine North, the Peace Man­age­ment Ini­tia­tive (PMI), in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Min­istry of Na­tional Se­cu­rity’s Crime Pre­ven­tion and Com­mu­nity Safety arm, is ready to roll out in other parishes, with great em­pha­sis to be placed on the volatile St James.

The vi­o­lence-in­ter­rup­tion pro­gramme was started in 2015 and is tai­lored from the cure vi­o­lence model that is utilised in North Amer­ica. The pro­gramme fo­cuses largely on high-risk youths, ages 15 to 29 years old, who are deemed to be vi­o­lence pro­duc­ers or po­ten­tial vi­o­lence pro­duc­ers.

“We are seek­ing to en­gage those youths who have al­ready gone down the wrong road,” Damian Hutchin­son, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the PMI (Kingston), said. “So a sig­nif­i­cant part of our work, apart from treat­ing with con­flicts at the com­mu­nity level, has to do with tran­si­tion­ing these youths out of the sit­u­a­tion that they find them­selves in.

“The five pri­or­ity ar­eas that we are look­ing at are St James, West­more­land, Kingston, Claren­don and St Cather­ine. These five parishes cur­rently pro­duce seven out of ev­ery 10 homi­cides across the coun­try.”

Ac­cord­ing to pol­icy di­rec­tor at the Min­istry of Na­tional Se­cu­rity’s Crime Pre­ven­tion and Com­mu­nity Safety Di­vi­sion, Court­ney Brown, since the vi­o­lence-in­ter­rup­tion pro­gramme started last year, over 3,000 youths have been en­gaged, with 2,100 of these be­ing from St Cather­ine North and the rest from St James.

Ap­prox­i­mately 800 of the youths en­gaged are said to have in­di­cated that they want to be in­volved in some form of al­ter­na­tive treat­ment – ma­jor­ity of whom are from St Cather­ine, as St James has proven to be a bit more chal­leng­ing.

“The or­gan­i­sa­tion (PMI) has a pro­gramme now in St James and that pro­gramme is in the early days, but we want to achieve the sim­i­lar goal of tran­si­tion­ing these youths out of gang ac­tiv­ity,” Brown told The Sun­day Gleaner.

“The St James pro­gramme is a lit­tle bit more com­pli­cated be­cause of the lot­tery scam­ming and so on, which brings an al­to­gether dif­fer­ent chal­lenge to the table. But we have had good feed­back to date from the young men there. A lot of them are seek­ing al­ter­na­tives, and as the po­lice be­come more suc­cess­ful in dis­man­tling el­e­ments of the scam­ming trade there, you will have more idle youths who need to be en­gaged and, there­fore, there is a thrust in St James as well.”


Brown said while they do not want to fo­cus on west­ern Ja­maica at the ex­pense of other parishes, strong em­pha­sis must be placed on St James, as it has the high­est mur­der rate.

“This is not a re­cent phe­nom­e­non, it (St James) has had the high­est mur­der rate for some time now, and we know the the­o­ries are that it is con­nected to the lot­tery scam,” he shared.

“When things are so deeply rooted, it takes a lit­tle while to change cul­ture, to change per­spec­tives. There is hardly any al­ter­na­tive in a so-called pro­gramme that can com­pete with the money peo­ple get from lot­tery scam. It has to be a com­bi­na­tion where it be­comes too hot for them to con­tinue while at the same time work­ing with the fam­i­lies and schools on val­ues, at­ti­tudes and on pos­i­tive re­la­tions be­fore they get into scam­ming.”

With close to 60 per cent of in­mates in adult in­sti­tu­tions be­ing school dropouts, there is also a plan to fo­cus on teenagers and of­fer them psy­choso­cial sup­port.

“We are get­ting some sup­port from UNICEF (United Na­tions Chil­dren’s Fund) to help strengthen the ca­pac­ity, and one of the things we will be do­ing is to pay a lit­tle bit more at­ten­tion to un­der-18s,” Hutchin­son re­vealed.

“I would say cur­rently we have about 1,500 youths who we have en­gaged, and of that num­ber, 75 per cent of them dropped out of school and about 80 per cent of them can­not read and write ef­fec­tively.”


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