COMMISSIONER of Police Gary Griffith says the age of gang members, which at one time was in the late teens to early 20s, is now as young as early to mid-teens.
Speaking on Wednesday at the weekly police press briefing at the Police Administration Building in Port of Spain, Griffith expressed concern that younger, school-age children are deciding to join criminal gangs. He blamed the adults in their lives for not setting the right example.
Griffith said data had shown that as recently as two to three years ago, the average age of gangsters was late teens to early 20s. Now, however, the police have noticed teenagers are becoming gang members.
He does not blame the youths but rather, the adults who have failed in their responsibility to impart the proper moral values and also to guide young people so they can become productive and law-abiding citizens.
"We do not have a youth problem in this country, we have an adult problem," he said. "There are adults who are neglecting responsibility as parents, as someone in a community, as a big brother. So they will allow the 11-, 12- and 13-year-olds to be involved in gang activity because they get profit out of it. You are basically prostituting your son for profit, and then after, when your son is killed you are going to hear the statement, 'He was a good boy. It was just the company he was keeping.'"
Griffith spoke of the importance for community policing in helping set examples and give outlets for the youth, listing activities and programmes in place such as I Support Our Service, Converge, the Commissioner's Cup and others to be made available soon. He pointed out the increase in these programmes, saying there had not been as many in the past, and said they were part of the police’s responsibility to try to educate a society and a community, owing to adults' continuous influence in compromising children’s situation and morals by allowing them to be involved in criminal activity. He ask for adults in communities to step forward and take responsibility for the youth.
“What is your 14-year-old son doing liming three o'clock in the morning playing cards with big hardback men?" he asked. "We need to start looking in the mirror. Instead of trying to blame the police, we need to work with the police.”