Tobago is losing the war on crime. So declared Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles as he pointed to “school dropouts” as a challenge requiring intervention to prevent young people from turning to a life of crime.
Speaking at the first public consultation on the National Crime Prevention Programme (NCPP) in Tobago last Tuesday evening at the Canaan/Bon Accord community centre, Charles said:
“One of the challenges we have emanating from our education sector is the number of dropouts that we have to treat with. If we do not attend to or treat with some of thes challenges what do you think would happened? There are students 13 and 14 years old who cannot recite the alphabet. A child about to enter secondary school who is in this position, he will be concerned about his brand, image, ego and therefore he won’t want anyone to know he cannot read or write. How do you think he will capture the attention of those he wishes to impress?
“There is no single cause of crime since crime is multi-faceted and if you diagnose incorrectly, you will prescribe incorrectly. And if crime is multi-faceted, the approach to crime must be multifaceted otherwise we will be in trouble and at this point in time we appear to be losing our war on crime, notwithstanding some of the intervention that directly comes out of the Ministry of National Security.”
Charles, who described the NCPP as a collaborative/supportive initiative, stressed that the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) must have a significant role in preventing young people in communities from turning to a life of crime.
“We have to intervene, we cannot wait until the curative process kicks in, and we have to see to all extent how we can engage the preventative process.
“Tobago’s economy is a tourist-based economy and unless we embrace and live up to safe, green, clean and serene, our developmental efforts will be impeded so we need to see this initiative in the context of the larger picture for the development of the island,” he said.
Neither Tobago Division’s ACO Garfield Moore nor newly appointed Senior Superintendent, Tobago Division, Richard Corbett, were at the event.
Director of NCPP, Retired Major Rodney Smart, said the project would include government and private agencies with stakeholders expected take up a responsibility for decreasing crime in respective areas through programmes/opportunities, ideas, and supplying support and counselling using available resources.
“At the end of the day, what we hope to establish is empowered communities, communities taking action by seeing the deviant young person, recognising him and starting to put priorities in place to take care of him.”
He said the first phase of the programme involved having a criminologist conduct training session with personnel in Government and the THA, and this will continue until implementation of the programme.
Smart said that for Tobago, a structure has been set under Ancil Dennis, Assistant Secretary in the Office of the Chief Secretary
In the discussion segment of the consultation, MP for Tobago West, Sports Minister Shamfa Cudjoe, called for action, as part of the programme, to stop touting in the Store Bay area.
“It’s a low hanging fruit and for this programme to have the level of success it is expected to have, we must identify the low hanging fruit. I have always been troubled as to how these guys (touts for reef boats) feel so brave and confident to come out and bully people to take their ride. Also, it even gotten to a point where these is a police station not too far away and there are guys smoking marijuana (at Store Bay). Store Bay is a major tourist attraction for us in Tobago West and we need to start there,” Cudjoe said.
She said she hopes the programme has plans to help young people redirect their energy to positive undertakings.
Allan Stewart, Director of the Tobago Emergency Management Agency (TEMA), inquired about the lifespan of the programme to which Smart said it was intended to be a lifelong programme - expected to continue and grow with changes in administrations.
One resident recommended that parents and churches in each community across Tobago take up the mantle and share the responsibility to ensure children remain on the right path.
THA Assemblyman for Canaan/Bon Accord, Clarence Jacob, noted that there were challenges with crime in the area.
“Will this programme be merged with education awareness because a lot of young people in the area are trying different illegal substances and developing different habits,” he said.
Smart said education awareness was a pillar of NCPP and would be done in all 15 community crime prevention councils throughout Trinidad and Tobago.
The second public consultation with take place at Betsy’s Hope Community Centre on August 12 with the launch of the programme scheduled for August 14.