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The causes of crime

Saturday, September 18 2010

We support the move by Minister of National Security, Brigadier John Sandy, to try to identify and remedy some of the actual causes of crime, as he made his Budget speech in the Lower House on Wednesday.

While all of us would like an immediate lid to somehow be put on the cauldron of crime, we also realise that today’s measures will take time to work and in fact may be best aimed at deterring new recruits to crime, if many current criminals indeed prove to be near irredeemable.

Sandy lamented that some in this society are suffering from a sense of alienation, from a growing economic divide between the “haves” and the “have-nots” and from moral and spiritual decay. “Family values are out the window,” he lamented, saying that many no longer practise basic civilities such as saying “good morning”.

We firmly believe that tackling crime involves both a coercive aspect involving no-nonsense policing, and also a longer-term and “softer” move to gradually try to make citizens into better people and to build a kinder, gentler society.

While we support Sandy’s detailed proposals for boosting the machinery of law enforcement such as the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (many of which proposals were inherited from the former PNM regime), we also applaud his recognition of the need to tackle the underlying causes of crime.

In this latter vein we welcome Sandy’s support for three initiatives aimed at helping youngsters stay on the proverbial right track — mentoring, music and military training (this latter via the Cadet Force). Sandy called for responsible adults to offer themselves as mentors to at-risk youngsters, revealing that he himself had once been mentored as a youngster growing up in the deprived community of Nelson Street, Port-of-Spain. Saying that poverty and drugs have caused an increase in the number of at-risk youths, he said formal mentoring can reduce juvenille delinquency.

We certainly support the idea of responsible adults mentoring at-risk youngsters, as we lament that anecdote suggests this is a society in which too many young males are hurting because of a lack of a father-figure in their lives, leading them to be vulnerable to all sorts of undesirable influences, simply in a bid to feel a sense of importance and of belonging. Sandy himself acknowledged as much when he said that when he met a youngster who is thought to have killed several people, whom he realised had been deprived of love. “All he needed was a little love,” said Sandy.

While it might seem strange to some for Sandy to plead the cause of a murderer, we certainly urge everyone to never underestimate their own power to lend a kind word to stop some other vulnerable youngster going down the murderous path.

We also welcome Sandy’s call for an expansion of the existing Positive Adolescent Panyard Initiative, as we generally support the practise of music in schools and in the nation’s panyards as a wonderful pastime and talent to uplift our youngsters.

Sandy also called for a unit of the Cadet Force to be established in every secondary school.

Sandy also set out a raft of measures to boost the sharp end of the law enforcement machine, hoping to fill the 1,641 shortfall in police officers and to lift police morale by negotiating pay- hikes. In an aside, we will not get into the ongoing wrangle over whether crime is up or down, because in our view the three month period for which figures are being thrown about is too short a period to see any noticeable long-term trends and because it is too soon since the new Government came into office for anyone to measure whether or not their policies have yet had a sustainable effect.

In conclusion, we’d like to emphasise that apart from the high-profile debates in Parliament over the running of the Police Service where politicians score political points and make news headlines, there are also a host of measures that we can all contribute to, away from the spotlight, to try to encourage the upcoming generation of youngsters to simply be better citizens who will be less vulnerable to being lured into a life of crime.

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