European Union's Ambassador to T&T Arend Biesebroek is convinced that young people are the ones with the answers to reducing juvenile crime and violence in T&T.
During an anti-crime initiative held at San Fernando West Secondary School, Biesebroek said he wanted to find out why some youths were continuing to become involved in criminal networks.
Saying a wave of violence among young people was sweeping across T&T, Biesebroek said, "We see regularly in the newspaper and on television incidents of crime. I was watching the news and saw a report of a suspect killed in a shootout. He was 14. These are the types of messages we have seen regularly and we are wondering where that comes from."
Biesebroek was making reference to the shooting death of 14-year-old bandit Luke Williams, a student of St Anthony's College who was gunned down by a businessman on Monday, inside Singh's Liquor Mart at Bournes Road, St James.
Noting that this spate of violence has to be addressed, Biesebroek said young people were the ones with the answers.
"We want to hear from you why these things happen. How do you interact with peers? Are you becoming aggressive? How do you deal with conflict? We bought a team and they will perform dramatized interactive sessions and raise these topics. We want to know what do we do to address violence. What are the choices we make and how the choices will impact on our lives?" he added.
Biesebroek also said youths must be taught about conflict management.
"We are looking at a situation where crime has become the norm and is accepted. We want to show young people the different ways to deal with conflict and show that if you make different choices, you can walk away from crime," he added.
He noted that the anti-crime project was meant to deliver an alternative to pupils who may be inclined to engage in criminal activity.
During an interview after the project launch, Biesebroek noted that socio-economic factors contributed to the increase in criminal activity.
"If you look at levels of criminality in areas you will get higher incidents in certain depressed areas," Biesebroek said.
Asked for recommendations, Biesebroek said, "This is something that needs to be looked at. How to deal with it, the government and other authorities have to answer. I don’t have concrete recommendations to determine how they can deal with issues and in terms of education," he added.
The principal of the school Ronald Mootoo said there were certain macro-initiatives which the Ministry of Education has passed on to school officials to deal with juvenile delinquency.
"We reinforce the school rules and inculcate human values in our students. Apart from the disciplinary measures we have clubs and co-curricular activities at the school levels," Mootoo said.
He noted however that financing was always a problem, adding that the school had developed strategies to fund programmes and activities.
Asked whether these extra-curricular activities were working to solve the delinquency, Mootoo said yes.
"Our pass rate has climbed to 71 percent," he said.
The anti-crime initiative will be taken to the Maloney Government Primary School next.
Photo caption: From left principal Ronald Mootoo, Form three student Toni Menzies, European Union's Ambassador to T&T Arend Biesebroek and vice principal Sharda Maharaj.
- by Radhica De Silva