As concern mounts over the upsurge in violence among the youth, the Freundel Stuart administration this morning announced a new anti-crime plan to push back against such deviant behaviour.
Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports Stephen Lashley told the House of Assembly during the Committee of Supply stage of debate on the 2018/2019 Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure that the plan will go into effect in a matter of months.
“We will be launching, in the new financial year, a programme entitled CEASE – Community Empowerment Activities to Stop Endangerment – and that programme will introduce and expand a number of community-focused interventions to curtail the propensity of youth to engage in criminal activities,” he revealed.
The Minister said those interventions would include the intensification of conflict resolution exercises, alternative dispute resolution strategies and expanded community building efforts through employment training, remedial, educational, cultural and sporting activities.
Lashley added that the resources of the Youth Division are being placed at the disposal of community groups, and parents and guardians in communities to help reduce the incidence of crime among some of the country’s young people.
He informed the House that his ministry has been responding to the crime situation based on the goals of the National Youth Policy and has been seeing positive results.
“We have implemented a number of programmes aimed at prevention to reduce the incidence of crime at the individual and also at the community levels. We have also, in those programmes, emphasized the need to protect a number of areas that have contributed to the incidence of crime. We have also focused on the reduction in relation to the issues that inform the specific groups from which we find crime has been emanating,” the Minister added.
Lashley noted that there has also been a strengthening of inter-agency cooperation and multi-professional approaches to address youth crime and violence.
He identified another project introduced across several communities in St Michael, which he referred to as St Unity.
“We focused a pilot project on three St Michael districts. I intentionally did not mention names because I did not think it was necessary. Suffice it to say, that the focus was on building community leaders and focusing the community on how it could join together in addressing some of the issues such as low community spirit, the high rate of unemployment, unhealthy lifestyles and poor academic performance of children in the community,” he told Parliament.
Lashley said the project, which is still underway, was conducted in collaboration with several agencies, including the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF), the Constituency Councils, the University of the West Indies (UWI) Social Work programme, the National Sports Council, the Pan American Life Insurance and community volunteers.
He said sports training and business ventures were used as well as personal development, health awareness, mentorships, community walk-throughs, meetings and stakeholder engagement.
“We have found there has been a significant turnaround in crime in those communities. The Ministry also found that there has been an increase in participation from persons and stakeholders and [we] were able to create a closer collaboration between the communities and the various agencies, including the Royal Barbados Police Force, in particular the Crime Prevention Unit,” Lashley reported.
He said the pilot programme would be expanded across Barbados.