Youth should not be scape­goats for lo­cal crime (Con­clu­sion of a 2-part se­ries)

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL -

Statis­tics pro­vided by the Borde­lais Cor­rec­tional Fa­cil­ity as of Oc­to­ber 12, 2017 in­di­cate that 25% of in­mates are 25 years old and younger. So ac­cus­tomed have we grown to see­ing the faces of youth, boys in par­tic­u­lar, as poster chil­dren dur­ing re­ports of petty and not so petty crime, we now take it for granted that young is just an­other word for crim­i­nal. We re­main largely un­moved, even when a young body is dis­cov­ered in some back al­ley or on a se­cluded beach. We are quick to la­bel the vic­tim as just an­other gang mem­ber, a nui­sance to so­ci­ety; no need to in­vest in a homi­cide in­ves­ti­ga­tion. The re­al­ity is that there are far more young peo­ple seek­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties, study­ing dili­gently, dream­ing of work­ing their way to a bet­ter life by all means le­gal. Lit­tle is heard about them, since young peo­ple here are all tarred with the same brush. And the re­sult is not a pretty sight. Small won­der that the num­ber of frus­trated young grows by the minute - at great cost to so­ci­ety.

It's more than an old wives' tale that chil­dren are of­ten prod­ucts of their en­vi­ron­ments. Ac­cord­ing to New York-based psy­chol­o­gist Vivian Diller in her Huff­in­g­ton­post ar­ti­cle 'Teens Who Com­mit Crimes: What Can/ Should Par­ents Do?': “Chil­dren are not born with a built-in set of the rules of moral­ity, nor do they sud­denly wake up one day as crim­i­nals. Lessons in ethics and man­ners have to start at home, and early.”

How many of us per­son­ally know of sit­u­a­tions where par­ents are aware of their off­spring's un­law­ful be­hav­iour but speak of it as a de­tach­ment from them­selves? The “child” goes in and out of jail, while liv­ing un­der the over­see­ing par­ent's roof, where there are no reper­cus­sions for bad be­hav­iour, no sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity. It is an ob­ser­va­tion ca­pa­ble of ig­nit­ing fury when wit­nessed first­hand. De­spite how alarm­ing, we can­not say this of every par­ent with crim­i­nal chil­dren. "Par­ents must do their part" is a phrase of­ten thrown around but what of par­ents who have no un­der­stand­ing of what their part in their kids' de­vel­op­ment en­tails?

Al­though re­al­ity may hint oth­er­wise, ex­ten­sive re­search has al­ready been done on crime in our coun­try and its causes. Stud­ies like Pro­fes­sor Ramesh Deosaran's ‘Na­tion­wide Sur­vey on Fear of Crime and Com­mu­nity Polic­ing in Saint Lu­cia' have been con­ducted with the aim of in­spir­ing our ap­pointed lead­ers to move into ac­tion with crime pre­ven­tion and crime re­duc­tion pro­grammes. The find­ings of such sur­veys prove the sig­nif­i­cance and ben­e­fits of com­mu­nity in­volve­ment when com­bat­ting crime.

Pro­fes­sor Deosaran's find­ings re­vealed that 90% of Saint Lu­cians are Chris­tians and 87% know their neigh­bours ei­ther very well, or well. This in­di­cates the pres­ence of a “high de­gree of so­cial cap­i­tal, a vi­able ba­sis for mo­bi­liz­ing per­sons to­ward com­mu­nity polic­ing". But how many of us have ac­tu­ally moved into ac­tion to show our readi­ness to re­duce crime? The re­al­ity is dis­ap­point­ing but not sur­pris­ing. On the ques­tion of whether com­mu­ni­ties ac­tively hold neigh­bour­hood meet­ings to dis­cuss crime-re­lated is­sues, 90% of the par­tic­i­pants re­sponded “no”, an in­di­ca­tion that lead­er­ship within the com­mu­nity or from po­lice is gravely needed.

In a long list of rec­om­men­da­tions squeezed into valu­able crime-re­lated data, Deosaran men­tions the pos­si­bil­ity of cre­at­ing com­mon ground and col­lec­tive ac­tion among res­i­dents in the var­i­ous dis­tricts and fa­cil­i­tat­ing civic part­ner­ships with the Na­tional Crime Com­mis­sion of Saint Lu­cia. He lists: “Sys­tem­atic train­ing in the foun­da­tion of com­mu­nity polic­ing, in­volv­ing meth­ods of eval­u­a­tion, al­ter­na­tive re­port­ing sys­tems, man­age­ment and prob­lem solv­ing” as worth­while ini­tia­tives. He also states as an­other vi­able op­tion the es­tab­lish­ment of po­lice youth clubs which have “great po­ten­tial in bridg­ing the gap be­tween the civic-minded youth and the de­viant youth in com­mu­ni­ties”. But who re­ally would be lead­ing such clubs? There needs to be co­or­di­na­tion on all fronts, in­volv­ing the govern­ment, po­lice, and the com­mu­nity with the im­ple­men­ta­tion of ro­bust polic­ing sys­tems and strate­gies.

The re­search has been done, yet noth­ing comes of it. Has it proven pro­gres­sive to make crime all about the youth with our in-school vi­o­lence pre­ven­tion pro­grammes and af­ter-school ini­tia­tives? Or has it yielded lit­tle, only en­abling a façade that things are be­ing done? We can­not con­tinue us­ing youth in­volve­ment in crime to eclipse the broader pic­ture. Re­al­ity shows us that those in their prime are spring­ing forth from a so­cio-eco­nomic mess that they did not cre­ate. It can­not be good enough to pray that the Lord put a hand when we as a so­ci­ety keep our hands in our pock­ets and our eyes fo­cused on the sky!

Youth in­volve­ment in crime is part of a much broader is­sue.

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