EDITORIAL - Preventing youth crime key
The biggest resource Barbados has is its people, and it will be through investment in its people that this country continues prospering.
One issue that needs to be addressed is the wayward activities of some juveniles and their eventual rehabilitation. Too often, teenage offenders are written off at a young age, regardless of hard circumstances or minor offences. In spite of success in developing opportunities for young people over the past 51 years, we hope more focus is placed on preventing youth crime, as it can have the potential to affect our country’s trajectory.
Even in Barbados of old, when it was acknowledged that a stronger support system fostered respect for self and others at school, in the home and at church, there were a few who strayed into deviant behaviour. With a changing social network, a weakened family structure, and the addictive lure of social media, is it any wonder that we see more youth today being led down the wrong path?
Exposure to violence and sexual deviance pose a huge threat to young people’s lives and moral make-up. It is widely acknowledged that the tree should be bent from young; if poor training is not arrested in its tracks at a tender age, it can then spiral out of control and result in serious crimes that affect the whole country.
Teachers, for example, were not at all surprised by the horrendous attack on a young schoolgirl, the video of which exploded over social media, nor the tragic incident at a St. Michael school recently which left one boy nursing wounds. For too long our teachers have sounded a warning about violence in schools; unfortunately, those voices have not been heeded with the urgency that is necessary. And we as a society can no longer afford to turn a blind eye, harping on the fact that “something must be done” but not willing to do the work, help mentor a young person or press the political class to enact crucial policies to change the tide.
An IDB study released in May this year offers a sober assessment on violence in the Caribbean. Surveying the metropolitan capitals of five countries – Barbados, Bahamas, Jamaica, Trinidad and Suriname – the study revealed that violent crime rates were higher than the global average, indeed higher than in any other region. The study recommended an “improved monitoring of police and justice systems” and “interventions targeted at high-risk individuals and geographic areas”.
This is where we all come in. It is well known children are like sponges and soak up and repeat the actions of their environs. Over the years studies have shown that when mentors are actively engaged in a child’s life, one can see a reduction but not complete elimination of delinquent behaviours, less drug and alcohol usage and improved academic performances by children. With more mentoring and positive, wholesome interactions in Barbados between young peers and adults, we are certain that the tide can be turned in favour of having less violent, deviant at-risk youth.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The more we can instil positive behaviours and thinking into our youth, the greater results we will have in producing not only functional, law-abiding citizens, but tapping into the skills and talents they have to further our country’s growth.