Monday 21 January, 2019

In crime plan, at risk youth to be exposed to music, sports and tech

A programme exposing at risk youth in crime plagued communities to music, sports and technology (MST) will be a critical element of Government’s five-point crime plan.

It’s part of the social intervention programme of the plan which was revealed on Tuesday by National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang as he made his contribution to the Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives.

He said the targeted audience is young men, prone to violence.

 “Our strategy, Mr Speaker will begin in our 20 most vulnerable and volatile communities in consultation with the Planning Institute of Jamaica,” Chang said. In order to ensure sustainability, the Minister explained that the National Security Ministry will deal with case management, counselling, violence prevention, while other services will be dealt with in collaboration with the responsible organizations and social agencies.

"For example, the HOPE programme and HEART with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information will be tasked to take ownership for training in Music and Technology and assume responsibility for the sustainability of that aspect of the programme,” Chang revealed.

He described MST as one of the Ministry’s new strategic thrusts for targeted social intervention activities within vulnerable communities. He told the House that effective youth engagement from a crime prevention perspective, involves relevant activities that can positively change antisocial behaviours.

“Music, sports and technology have proven to mould and shape the social exchanges and mindsets of our Jamaican youth,” he stated.

“Mr Speaker, I believe it’s safe to say that every Jamaican male loves music and sports and is fascinated with technology.

“MST activities will reduce delinquency and promote contact with positive role models, such as coaches and musicians with whom they interact and learn. Boys, in particular, utilize these avenues as gateways to sustaining bonds amongst themselves. Indeed, youth with weak attachments, weak commitments and negative role models are more likely to commit offences because they have nothing to lose,” the security minister noted.

He argued that in examining local examples of some of our most volatile communities, music and sports have proven to positively contribute to neighbourhood transformations with experiences of reduced crime and violence.

The Minister said technology continues to have a phenomenal impact on how young people access, process and communicate information.

“There is empirical evidence to suggest that alternatively, we could use this medium to encourage our young men to contribute in a positive way to society with skills such as the development of computer based applications,” Chang said.

He revealed that the Ministry has already embarked on the development of an Integrated Social Intervention Strategy and Action Plan for selected communities. He said St James was the first one off the starting block and this strategy will assist with the coordination and implementation of social development programmes that focus on MST at the core.

 “The intention is to stimulate pro-social values, attitudes and behaviour among our unattached youth. This approach, Mr Speaker will re-socialize antisocial mindsets and promote respect for self, others and community,” Chang said.

 He said the concept of ‘Music, Sports and Technology’ will be implemented through partnerships across all sectors, with a focus on promoting public order and enhancing access to social amenities, such as Wi-Fi supported homework and recreational zones  and social capital in vulnerable communities.

 Meanwhile, the security minister pointed to existing social intervention programmes which he said will now be fully integrated and sustained. These include the Citizen Security and Justice Programme which is now in its third phase and implemented across 55 targeted communities with a focus on youth aged 12 to 30 years of age who reside in volatile areas. The programme will transition in 2019 with the Ministry retaining the responsibility for a centralized case management framework.

 “We intend, Mr Speaker to build on the successes of this methodology with a fundamental shift to focus on the 8 to 15-year-old cohort who are of a more impressionable and vulnerable age,” Chang told the House.

 The other existing programmes are the Peace Management Initiative which uses alternative dispute resolution methodologies to treat with community-based violence. The PMI is also responsible for the management and implementation of the Violence Interruption Programme.

 The Violence Interruption Programme engages gang members and their associates with the primary aim of reducing reprisal killings. There is also the ‘I am Purpose School Violence Prevention Programme’ which aims to reduce the future risk of crime and tackles the root causes by engaging secondary school students. And the ‘I am Volunteerism’ programme which recruits at-risk youth actively and engages them to participate in structured development programmes from targeted communities in St. James. The programme offers various life skills training opportunities with the use of music, sports and culture.

“As we move forward the Ministry will be utilizing our social intervention programmes to intercept the recruitment of our young men into gangs,” Chang said. As part of this thrust, avenues such as the Jamaica Combined Cadet Force will be utilised to erve as a feeder  for the Jamaica National Service Corp which will in turn provide recruits for the National Recruitment Programme for the Jamaica Defence Force “and the entire security architecture,” Chang explained.

 “This is with a view to diverting youth from a life of crime. With the fundamental shift to refocus on the 8 to 15-year-old age groups, we expect greater successes,” he added.

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