Contrary to what Police statistics have been telling us for years, crime is not decreasing, but is actually increasing here. Even more troubling is that, along with the rest of the Caribbean, more than eighty percent of those crimes are committed by young persons; suggesting that, having already chosen the path to criminality, these youths will ensure that the Police would be challenged to effect a real reduction in crime.
Another thing we do not need are more “studies” on the phenomena, as in other areas of national life that present challenges. We have reams of such studies filed away and gathering dust in various and sundry storerooms of our policy makers’. For instance, in January of 2019, there was the UN-sponsored “Caribbean Summit on Youth Violence” – and by extension “crime” – held at the Guyana Marriott Hotel in Georgetown. Immediately we can get a glimmer of why these interventions never get anywhere.
One block from the Marriott, there is Tiger Bay, which has earned its reputation for being a nest of young criminals since the 1960s. The Mighty Sparrow had declared, “I don’t care if the whole a BG burn down/But they will be putting me out me way/If they tackle Tiger Bay/An bun dung de hotel/ Where all me wabbin does stay.” “Wabbin”, of course, being “girls of the night”, with their attendant retinue of pimps and “choke and robbers”. But the point was that, at the august conference on “youth violence”, no one saw fit to invite some of the subjects being discussed. In a word, they had been reduced to “objects”, to be examined like specimens and discarded after the paper was written and the grants collected.
During the two-day affair, participants were involved in discussions revolving around “the promotion of healthy masculinity, youth-driven responses to criminal gangs, and addressing risk and protective factors for youth violence, among others.” Referring to a United Nations (UN) report, the Caricom Secretary General noted that 80 per cent of prosecuted crimes are committed by youths between the ages of 19 and 29, and offered the perennial “insights” on “causes”: “There are a number of socio-economic determinants of crime, of the least of which is the high youth unemployment in the Region of 25 per cent in 2017.” In Guyana, the unemployment rate among that age cohort hovers around 45%. Then just as predictably, there were the homilies about what was to be done, starting with the role of families in imparting positive values to their children to prevent them descending into criminal paths.
For the policy makers from Guyana and the Commonwealth present in the ritzy hotel, he identified, “The Crime Prevention National Plan and the Caricom Youth Development Action Plan are two of the main policy frameworks which guide and design the implementation of policy and programmes in Member States, to address crime and violence from a prevention perspective through addressing the underlined social factors”.
The Social Cohesion Minister George Norton promised feelingly, “We must all continue to implement programmes and activities that seek to develop and enhance youths’ self-esteem and confidence; promote tolerance, respect for laws and rules; and empower them to be change agents in our societies”.
He explained that such programmes must include an avenue for youths to be able to shake off their aggression, and release stress and anger which would have built up owing to insecurities. “These programmes would include sports and recreational activities, educational and cultural programmes, mentorship and counselling programmes, creation of youth-friendly spaces across countries; consultations and practical and life skills training.”
The reasons why, almost three years later, we are nowhere closer to addressing youth violence and crime lie in the fact that, as the Minister was speaking, he and his PNC Government were violating the constitution with their specious “33 is not the majority of 65” argument to fend off the workings of the PPP’s successful NCM. This segued into the elections rigging and other illegalities.
Apart from abandoning their promises, what values were youths being taught?