Basseterre, St. Kitts – At-risk youth and others who may be perpetrators of crime and violence will soon be the beneficiaries of a new initiative of the government through the Ministry of Agriculture.

According to the prime minister and the minister of National Security, the Ministry of Agriculture has set aside some land that will be used by at-risk youth, ex-gang member and former prisoners.

“The Ministry of Agriculture has set aside 70 acres of land for strategic approach for at-risk youth and former inmates of Her Majesty’s Prison and ex-gang members,” Dr. Timothy Harris announced. He further indicated that the government is currently in the process of identifying a leader for that project and are open to collaborations in the endeavour.

“We, of course, collaborate with the private sector in this initiative of providing honest pathways to sustainable living,” he said.

Harris also revealed that one “significant player” in the private sector has already had meetings with the minister of Agriculture to discuss several interventions in the agricultural sector. “I have asked him to prioritize this particular for support in technology, the application of science and other inputs for this particular project,” Harris said.

The prime minister stated that the initiative is a move to provide constructive engagement for youth in St. Kitts and Nevis. “We are providing opportunities for constructive engagement for our young people,” he said, “providing them with a sense of belonging and we are building trust between the young people and our security forces.”

Harris added that crime is a “multifaceted phenomenon” that requires a whole-of-society approach if they are to be successful in curbing the situation.

“In this regard,” he said, “we hosted the first-ever National Symposium on Crime to ascertain from stakeholders what they can and will do to enhance public safety and security. Since that symposium, the built-out of our crime reduction strategies continue apace.”

He further disclosed that they have identified a group of police officers who will engage gang members and at-risk youth continually to encourage and assist them to move away from the gang culture.

The National Security minister also spoke to other initiatives his ministry has adopted to help in crime fighting. “The Team Unity government will continue to provide our law enforcement entities with the human, financial and physical resources and legislative support required to ensure that our federation is the safest small island state. We will collaborate with all critical entities and stakeholders such as schools churches, NGOs and business community to effectively reduce the level of crime in the federation.”

He added that they have removed duties and taxes from security surveillance equipment and have given “a broad and unprecedented support for public safety and security in our country.”

Harris also spoke of plans to strengthen the human resource capability within the different security agencies, including customs and Her Majesty’s Prison with more than100 to be added in 2017.

“It is no mistake as we meet today a batch of some 32 [people] have started their training with the police force,” Harris said. “Twenty of our citizens are in training at our defense force and we’ve added a further 10 [during] the last two weeks, [who] were approved for recruitment at Her Majesty’s Prison to specifically assist in the implementation of rehabilitation works for the inmates there. Fourteen [people] are to be recruited to enhance the resources at our Customs and Excise Department and 14 are to be recruited for our CCTV surveillance and monitoring program. During the course of 2017, nigh 100 persons will be added to the security services. Th[is] represents jobs for our citizens and residence.”

Harris advised that there are some 40 potential recruits who will come from overseas to complement our human manpower needs on the police force.

“We have provided the largest budget support for national security in living memory at $72million and we have invested in every area – vehicles or transportation, the coast guard headquarters, the CCTV programme, training and mentoring.”