Give a ‘bligh’ to our Police Youth Clubs
Thursday, July 19 2012
AT the recent launch of the Community Caravan of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service, the Chamber was quite impressed by the performances of members of a number of Police Youth Clubs.
Through these young people, a face of the police not often seen was evident – the police officer in the community, a mentor and nurturing leader. Each club is headed by a present or past police officer, who serves on a voluntary basis, assisted by an executive comprised of other police officers and civilians.
The first two Police Youth Clubs in Cocorite and St James were initiated back in 1974. Today, there are 45 throughout the country — seven in Tobago and 38 in Trinidad, with a combined membership of about 3500. Originally targeted to at risk and delinquent youths, the clubs have now far exceeded the mandate and is open to all youths between the ages of 5 and 25.
The clubs are guided by four fundamental tenets: Spiritual development, Sporting and cultural activities, Social and community work and Academia. From these arise the wide variety of projects undertaken by the different clubs. The activities are avenues to ensure that the youths are directed to meaningful activities away from a life of idleness.
From what we saw, dancers, pannists, chutney and calypso singers are fostered within the Youth Clubs. They run computer programmes, sporting activities, craftwork and remedial classes. Many members of the Youth clubs go on to enter the Police Service; in fact, a number of musicians in the current Police Band are past members of the clubs.
These projects require funding which still remains a challenge as clubs vie with competing interests for a shrinking sponsorship dollar. According to our information, in the last year or so the annual vote in the TTPS’ budget for Youth Clubs was increased to $1 million. But when divided between 45 clubs, it does not fully provide for meeting the average cost of $30,000 annually to run a club, leaving each club’s executive to make up the balance.
Another challenge is that most clubs have no permanent residence. Apart from Roxborough in Tobago, St James and Sangre Grande, the Youth Clubs depend on the charity of corporations and individuals for spaces to run their programmes. Yet, like any family, a home of its own is the heartfelt desire of every club in order to administer and deliver programmes efficiently while growing membership.
Given the need to engage young persons in lawful activities and groom them to contribute in a wholesome way to societal development, Police Youth Clubs have played, and can continue to play a crucial, positive role.
The Chamber encourages the members of the business community to support these clubs in whatever way they can, whether through CSR Programmes, traditional sponsorships or in-kind contributions.
TT is currently faced with a critical crime situation – four murders in just one night - and low detection rates, with a national average of about 12 percent. There is room for many programmes which take preventative measures to encourage youths away from criminal or unwholesome activities, and all should be embraced.
Investing in your community lends value not just in terms of an improved bottom line, but builds a better society which ultimately helps to reduce crime – a goal in which the corporate community has a vested interest.