Aggressive behaviour, physical abuse and lack of parental supervision are among the factors which lead youth to crime and violence, Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan said yesterday while calling for the creation of evidence-based initiatives to effectively deal with this problem.
Ramjattan made these comments during the opening session of the Strengthening Evidence-Based Decision Making for Citizen Security – CARISECURE project launch and two-day interception workshop which has been made possible through a grant from USAID.
According to Ramjattan while many aggressive children and persons in the Caribbean go on to become law-abiding citizens in their adult years, some slip through the cracks and become involved in crime and violence.
“Aggression at a young age significantly predicts violence later on…Most children who have been physically abused by parents and others go on to live perfectly normal adult lives yet we know that those physically abused …especially a boy child will have convictions for violent crime as an adult”, he said.
Ramjattan who was at the time referring to several findings in reports and surveys on youth involvement in crime and violence said that it “should not be over our heads that failure of a child in school is one of the most enduring correlates of later violence”.
He said based on the figures given to him by the Director of Prisons, four out of five persons convicted for violent offences have not completed secondary school. He pointed out too that the lack of parental supervision also plays a part in this situation as there is a link between delinquency and violent delinquency.
“And so the question has to be put. Knowing all of that from all the various surveys and reports, what is to be done? Though we know plenty we certainly do not know enough or nearly enough as to how to prevent growing violence and youth crime in the first place”, he said.
Ramjattan told those gathered at Regency Suites/Hotel that at a regional security forum last year at which the issue of youth crime and violence came up he had suggested that Caricom leaders make a long-term investment in national research and development in this area.
Noting his support of CARISECURE, he said that this is only one tool in the kit that will be used. He stressed on the need for evidence-based initiatives, noting that it involves improving technical capacity to collect the data and analyse it so that the policymakers in the various territories can be better at advocating what is to be done in a variety of areas linked to youth.
Meanwhile, UNDP Deputy Resident Rep-resentative Shabnam Mallick in opening remarks noted that CARISECURE is part of a broader Youth Empowerment Services (YES) project which was launched in Guyana earlier this month.
She said over the next five years UNDP will work with seven eastern and southern Caribbean countries with specific emphasis on St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis and Guyana. She said that the UNDP believes that the challenges associated with crime and violence and the disturbing involvement of young people in it can be best advanced in a sustainable manner to multi sectorial and people-centred approaches.
According to Mallick, regional dialogues and assessments determined that up to date and reliable data was critical to joint efforts. “It was the central ingredient for developing evidence based policies and community based programmes that focus on prevention”, she said, adding that these dialogues and the active support of USAID have led to the realisation of the CARISECURE launch.
She said that it is known that the exposure to violence at a young age is associated with long- term physical, mental and emotional harm. “It puts young people at greater risk at failing in school or subsequently struggling to find or keep a steady job. It also means that they are likely to come in contact with the juvenile justice system ….that failed young person becomes a repeat offender and finds their way into the criminal justice system”, she said.
According to Mallick it has been established beyond a doubt that in many countries that the exposure of a young offender to an ineffective youth justice system, causes more harm. “This has profound implications not only for that young person but his or her family, community and society”.
She questioned what assurances can be given that the tendency of violent behaviour can be minimized. She opined that evidence-based decisions would help find such an answer and these will help reduce youth crime and violence and approach the problems in a systematic and coherent way.
Mallick said that the UNDP’s approach to assisting in the reduction of youth crime and violence is three-fold. She said the organisation will work towards creating standardised and disaggregated crime data sources to facilitate identification and measurement of youth risk and resilience structures; establish evidence-based analysis of crime and violence data to inform policy making and programming and improving decision making on youth crime and violence based on available evidence at the national, sub-regional and regional level.
Also present were acting Director of Prisons Gladwin Samuels and United States Deputy Chief of Mission in Guyana, Terry Steers-Gonzalez and Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan.