The last week has again highlighted the issue of violence amongst our young men in the Federation. Again we see an outcry that such violence must be arrested. Our Prime Minister made a statement condemning the violence and talking about the measures his government has taken to address the violence and talked about the issue being all but ignored for the past 20 years.
In all fairness this is not completely true, in the last 15 years substantial investment has been made by both the public and private sector in to the security forces of our nation. Canine Units, vehicles, guns, investment in forensic science more officers both police and military personal, CCTV the list is long and expensive. And yet the problem continues.
There seems to be an acknowledgement that the violence is rooted in the gang culture and further, retaliatory in nature. In years past Operation Future has funded a number of experts to come into the Federation and participate in 3 community workshops in our efforts to get people to understand the nature of the problem and the magnitude of the solution. In essence the problem is complex and far deeper than a simple issue of crime. And, we in the Caribbean can learn more from the mistakes made in so called developed nations then trying to find a solution from them, as frankly they have yet to solve the problem themselves.
Unfortunately, we have not seemed to take heed and believe this matter can be resolved through spending on policing, security and make work projects as if this issue is simply a mater of economics. And, we have spent a lot of money, both Labour and Unity , on policing and security and yet are we any further ahead than we were 10 years ago?
Two factors should come to the front when looking at the situation, the violence is gang related, the violence is retaliatory in nature. This is where we need to start in developing a strategy to address this problem. The first why has the gang problem taken root here in the Federation, youth worldwide are attracted to the gang culture for the same reason, they are looking for family, acceptance, recognition and structure. This leads to the second factor, the violence being retaliatory in nature, these are not senseless killings in the minds of those pulling the trigger but lashing out for the loss of surrogate family members.
Retaliation is when you lash out and harm someone to avenge the pain inflicted on you.
When we look at the staggering amount of death our youth have faced in the last ten years the fact that many are in pain should be no surprise. The fact that many do not know how to deal with this pain and feel a need to lash out should also not be any surprise.
If we continue to address this as a security issue it will not end, in fact it will get worse, first, security is expensive and therefore not sustainable, look at the percentage of municipal budgets expended on security in cities in the U.S. and Canada, police are now demanding armor personal carriers, helicopter and military style armament, in essence waging war in their own communities. Secondly as more youth die the anger issues escalate, for every young man killed there a number left behind in pain who will deal with this pain by seeking revenge.
We have to take broader approach then we have been taking. Security is important however it does not go to the root. Let’s look at what attracts youth to the gang culture, our communities are not meeting the needs of the children or the families. Youth are not getting involved in the gang culture because they can’t find a job, their involvement in the gang culture begins long before they are of the age to seek employment. Let’s look at our communities and ascertain what we can provide to assist people in raising children in a healthy environment. Operation Future in our quest to understand the nature of the problem chose to partner with an organization based in Canada. Why, this organization in six years in their own troubled neighborhood saw a drop of crime in the community of 85% without handcuffs or prison, they established no cost daycares to assist families, meal programs, communities gardens, community centers filled with free community oriented programs and demanded that certain types of business were zoned out of the community as they were deemed inappropriate for a healthy residential community and belonged in a warehouse district. We believed they could teach us something.
As a simple example of our shortfalls in the last week I believe we have seen four murders, each person killed leaves behind a number of grieving persons, how many of these people are receiving counseling to deal with the pain and anger? How many of these people are now sitting and planning revenge as a way to deal with their pain?
This problem is going to be with us for a long time, to many of our youth are in pain and beyond redemption, however, unless we become proactive and recognize this problem for what it is, it is never going away and can get much worse.