JCF reaches out to over 1,000 youth with summer camps
A police officer interacting with children in Salt Spring, St James
The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) is reporting that since the start of the summer holiday, police officers hosted a total of 14 summer camps and managed to reach out to some fifteen hundred (1500) children as part of efforts to build better relationships and build bridges within communities across the island and so far the initiatives have been reaping success.
Salt Spring, a troubled community in St. James is one area that has benefitted from the initiative rolled out by JCF members.
Police Commissioner, Major General, Antony Anderson said the summer programme held in the Salt Spring Community has played a pivotal role in the efforts to end violent behaviour in the community. Police said over 129 children benefitted from the exercise.
"Outbursts of violence in the community, considered to be one of St James’ ‘hottest’ crime ‘hotspots’ in the last two decades, resulted in the development of ‘invisible borders’ between communities. This posed a serious challenge for persons living and working in the community," the police commissioner said.
The Commissioner indicated that given the success of this programme, this exercise will be replicated in other communities across St. James.
“The divisional commander has committed to that and … I am committed to supporting him to get that done,” the Commissioner said.
"This summer, the JCF staged 14 youth camps across the island engaging some fifteen hundred (1500) children “…as each police division works to maintain good relationships and build bridges with the communities they serve.” Commissioner Anderson said.
The Police Commissioner indicated that he considers the development of interaction between the local children and the police as part of the greater strategy of relationship building and preventative policing, where communities work with the police to “…help us keep you safe.”
According to Commissioner Anderson, “When police officers are seen as ‘aunties’ and ‘uncles’ within communities, as opposed to ‘that policeman over there’, it changes the dynamic for both the children and the police officers.”
The reference to ‘aunties and uncles’ originated with the participating children who, during the camp, overcame their fear of police officers and, “…know now that the police are their friends, and they can say they have ‘Aunty police’ and ‘Uncle police’, because that is what they call them at camp,” said Annmarie Reid, resident and assistant secretary of the Salt Spring Community Development Committee.
Reid explained that the camp had brought about life-changing experiences for the community adding that the residents regretted that the camp could not be extended for another month, given its positive impact.
“Now, I see the possibility of getting children to come to camp from surrounding areas. That’s a big thing for Salt Spring”, she said.
Commanding Officer for the St. James Division, Superintendent Vernon Ellis outlined that staging the camp for the children, aged six to sixteen (6 – 16) years from the Salt Spring Primary school and an early childhood facility in the community, was part of a strategy to carry out relationship building interventions concurrent with hardcore policing.
“We chose to target the youth because we’ve seen where the partnership can build; we see where behaviour can be changed,” he said.
The camp programme included sessions in life skills, health and safety, sport, art and craft, physical exercise, conflict resolution, bullying, teen dating, information technology, social media management, food and nutrition, hygiene and dealing with violence and abuse. Campers were also provided with meals. At the closing ceremony, some campers were rewarded for their outstanding contribution while all received certificates of participation and were issued with back-to-school bags and other school supplies.
The Salt Spring camp was coordinated by Deputy Superintendent of Police Yvonne Whyte Powell supported by a team of policemen and women and several public and private sector agencies.
Commissioner Anderson commended this approach to the execution saying, “There are a number of stakeholders who also assist in staging these activities and together we will replicate in other parts of the island.”
The objectives of the programme were to strengthen integration among community members, promote discipline and a culture of lawfulness, provide basic but formal training in socialization and vocational skills as well as creating an understanding around community-police partnership to reduce crime while fostering an environment where communities understand the benefits they accrue from working with the police.