Drug abuse and drug trafficking are responsible for rising levels of violence and gun-related crimes, including an unprecedented hike in murders this year, according to Government research.
But this path to violence is being paved in primary school as children are introduced to drugs and crime, the research suggests.
The head of the Criminal Justice & Research Planning Unit Cheryl Willoughby said today the research points to a strong correlation between the drug trade and the illicit firearm trade which not only affects individuals and families but also society in general given the island’s dependence on tourism and foreign investment.
Willoughby’s remarks came this afternoon at a prize-giving for the Wilkie Cumberbatch Primary School’s Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E) programme, held at Prince Cave Hall, at the Police District ‘A’ Complex.
The Government’s chief criminologist called on Barbadians both on the island and across the diaspora to assist with charting more productive paths and opportunities for young people.
She said: “Drug abuse generates complex social problems which must be addressed using a holistic model.
“This model should include a treatment component aimed at giving non-violent offenders the best possible opportunity to rehabilitate and become productive citizens.
“The Drug Treatment Court provides this opportunity and continues to do an excellent job at giving young drug offenders a second chance.”
The crime research unit’s director commended the DARE programme for performing a vital role in educating young people about drugs and diverting them from the criminal justice system.
She said the contents of the DARE programme, including aspects of decision making; risk and consequences; peer pressure, communication skills and bullying, were areas that address a number of risk factors to violent crime identified in her unit’s research.
She said it was important that programmes targeting vulnerable populations be guided by research evidence to ensure that the most critical areas for intervention received the required resources.
Willoughby told the graduands that the DARE programme provided them with all the necessary information and skills that would allow them to make wise decisions about their health and the importance of being a productive citizen.
She cautioned the students that there was no real magic to success, which only comes with hard work on the part of parents, teachers and students.
“It takes sacrifice, dedications and most importantly the ability to stand alone for what is right and wholesome. Sometimes we are tempted to give up and give in to peer pressure when things become tough,” she said.
Willoughby also turned her attention to parents whom she said were best placed to keep their children safe from drugs and help them develop skills they will need to make positive choices.
“This can only be achieved if parents are empowered to assume their responsibility and lead the cause by being positive role models for their children.
“Research has shown that children of offenders often follow in their parents’ footsteps and become part of the criminal justice system.
“In other words, the fruit does not fall too far from the tree,” she said.
DARE’s facilitator Police Inspector Roland Cobbler commented that he daily encounters young people who openly admit to drug use.
He highlighted the Criminal Justice Research & Planning Unit’s research finding that initiation into drug use for children in Barbados was occurring as early as primary school.
The Royal Barbados Police Force is concerned with the development since the prevalence of drug use by children has the potential to threaten the stability of society, he said.
Acting Inspector Cobbler declared: “It is, therefore, my belief that this Drug Abuse Resistance Education programme affectionately known as DARE, provides the requisite knowledge and skills to assist our children in making the right choices.”
Certificates of participation were handed out to 72 Wilkie Cumberbatch students during the graduation ceremony.
Skyla Weithers received the top awards for being the Most Outstanding 2019 DARE student at the national level and at the school.