RODNEY SMART, national co-ordinator of the National Crime Prevention Programme (NCPP), which seeks to influence youth as part of its scope, got a laugh with a few mispronunciations as he spoke to students at NAPA last week. But Smart really set his foot wrong trying to equate the power of evil with the Avengers villain, Thanos. An evil Thanos was probably the wrong metaphor to offer his teenage audience.
Thanos is a great antagonist in his battles with the heroic Avengers not because he is evil, but because he believes he is right in pursuing his goals and has a fully formed worldview that just happens to be a very bad idea for at least half of the inhabitants of the film’s universe. And so it is in reality.
It’s to be hoped that the NCPP, launched in July 2018, formulated during the tenure of former National Security Minister Edmund Dillon and launched as an effort at taking a long view to the problem of crime reduction, attains success.
In June 2018, Renee Cummings, a trainer for the programme, spoke of a project that called on young people to “own the programme,” as both victims and perpetrators of crime. The NCPP is supposed to change behaviour, inspire individuals to change their behaviour and to ignite volunteerism.
This softer, community-level approach did not meet with everyone’s expectations of an anti-crime plan. Ancil Roget dismissed the NCPP as a “sham.” Somewhere between the halcyon goal and a cynical dismissal of the project’s aspirations is an achievable reality, which harnesses the planned “Whole of Government” and “Whole of Society” to effect change and inspire alternatives in communities locked into cycles of destructive violence.
At last week’s event, Smart said the programme had held outreach engagements in Tobago, Chaguanas, Diego Martin, San Fernando and Port of Spain and that 1,100 young people had been “engaged” so far.
The challenge with fighting even the potential for crime is not getting people to put down guns and stop using force and violence to have their own way. The battle is to articulate compelling reasons why participating in civil society and aligning with the goals and ambitions of a law-abiding society is a demonstrably better solution than the more seductive response to social disadvantage that crime offers.
Telling savvy young teens that Thanos is evil doesn’t make that case at all. Nothing about the NCPP so far sounds like a programme that is being led and informed by the young people it hopes to reach. Suggesting that the complexities that lead to a life of crime are as easy to dissect as a popular two-hour movie simplifies their challenges unnecessarily and doesn’t address any lived reality they can describe.