A senior police officer has painted a damning picture of crime among the country’s youth, warning that unless something is done to stem the tide Barbados will soon be overtaken by “a new criminal breed”.
Sergeant Roland Cobbler revealed last night that students from as young 11 were involved in violent crime, citing a case of a 15-year-old controlling drug gangs within his school.
Speaking last night at a panel discussion on, Crime and Violence and its Effect on Today’s Youth, organized by the St Michael School Alumni, Cobbler said drug use was widespread among the island’s schools, with a select group of students putting into practice habits learned from adults with whom they associate.
“Unfortunately a number of our students in every single school in this country are engaged in drug use. I’ve been to a St Michael School recently where there is an issue of drug use.
“This morning I toured another school where I spoke to a chap about 15 years old, and he allowed me to know that he controls things at that school. He has about ten or 15 boys who are part of his group . . . They are associated with older persons who are involved in criminal activity. So when he indicated to me that he hangs out with adults from the Dog Pound, I realized that there are only certain activities he will see and will take to the school,” said the officer, who was trained in sociology at the University of the West Indies.
Cobbler said crime among the youth was “nothing new” but said there’s a “worrying” trend of children engaging in serious crime at a much younger age. He presented statistics on the activities of those between the ages of 11 and 16 that show a staggering rise in the number of young people engaged in crime and violence. And he warned that these children would take their propensity for crime into their adult lives.
Describing the situation as worrisome, the police sergeant said that between January and July last year there were 18 cases of juvenile delinquency but the number climbed to 40 for the same period this year.
He said three children were held for firearms possession last year, rising to four for the same period this year.
There was also a jump in the number of 11 to 16-year-olds using firearms, from no cases last year to seven this year, while those involved in robbery climbed from seven last year to 13 this year.
“If you have children in this age range committing robberies, you would understand that it is a learned behaviour, and if that is what they are learning, that is what they will continue [to do] . . . Research consistently shows that children or adolescents who become involved in delinquency, the likelihood that they will become involved in adult criminality increases significantly,” the officer told those gathered for the event at the Barbados Public Workers Cooperative Credit Union’s Belmont Street auditorium.
He warned that Trinidad and Tobago, which has already recorded over 335 murders so far this year, faced a similar situation with delinquent youth before crime escalated to the current levels and stressed that “if we are not careful in this country our adolescents who are engaging in delinquency would become involved in hardcore criminality.”
The RBPF officer also referred to other recent incidents involving students posting violent scene on social media, declaring that in recent times “this present generation has gone crazy.”
“We have girls under the age of 16 who are posting pictures on the social media in possession of firearms. All of these are instances of crime and violence that if we do not monitor carefully, we would be in trouble,” Cobbler stressed.
The six-member panel also included Pastor Fitz Joseph; criminologist Yolande Forde; attorney Steve Gollop; medical doctor Michael Charles; and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Culture Ruth Blackman.