National Security depends on community programmes to fight crime

Commissioner of Police Ian Queeley and Permanent Secretary Osmond Petty of the Ministry of National Security
Commissioner of Police Ian Queeley and Permanent Secretary Osmond Petty of the Ministry of National Security

Basseterre, St. Kitts – Two top national security officials have indicated the ministry’s commitment to engaging community leaders in order to reach out to the youth population to curb future criminal activities.

Commissioner of Police Ian Queeley and Permanent Secretary Osmond Petty of the Ministry of National Security said the community plays an important role in the National Crime Reduction and Prevention Strategy.

Petty stated that during the crime symposium organized by the government, they came up with suggestions and collaborated with various stakeholder groups to strategize.

“The strategy is we are really going to mobilize every stakeholder group to implement the activities and strategies that they said they were going to do to address the roots of crime,” Petty said. “The general strategy is to have a community wide approach to it rather than just the police.”

He added that the aim now will be to challenge the various stakeholders to act on the suggestions made.

“We want to bring in the church, chamber, the schools and all of the other stakeholder groups to do what they have said,” Petty said. “The strategy is a national strategy and we hoped that it will be owned by the stakeholder groups that developed it.”

Petty further indicated that the government has been engaging with some non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to target at-risk youth in the federation.

“We are linking with at least two NGOs,” Petty said. “One is a newly formed NGO called The Lifetime Touch Incorporated, which has just been registered and incorporated, and they are going to be rolling out some programs getting people to go into the communities and interact with gang members or potential gang members and work with them.”

The second he noted was a collaboration with a USAID-backed initiative that will train individuals to go out into the communities and intermingle with gang members.

“There’s another USAID-funded program called Community Family and Youth Resilience,” Petty said. “They are introducing something called ‘violence interrupters,’ which is going to get people to train to interact with gang members or people who are potentially leaning in that direction to try to help. So, those are two of the groups we are going to link up with as part of the strategy.”

Queeley indicated that the police will be continuing to engage the communities as well as trying to change the public’s perception of the police force.

“We want the community to see us as their friends, not their enemies,” Queeley said. “That is why it is so important that the other aspects of society get on board because it is a community outreach. We cannot and do not in any way suppose we can do it alone.“

He further explained that the youth effort is being made because most of the criminal activities being committed are by young people within the 15-30 age range.

Queeley stated that while the major concern has been the increase in violent crimes, there is also a lot of crime of opportunities, such as break-ins.

“From that perspective, while we educate the public as to how they can prevent these crimes, we want to, at the same time, be in a position to be able to detect them and bring the perpetrator to justice,” Queeley said.

However, he indicated that crimes of violence are the crimes that drive the most fear within the communities.

“These crimes are committed by [people] from within the community,” he said. “These [people] have parents who go to the church, and this is why we are talking about an all-inclusive and wholesome approach; we have people who go to the church, [people] who are involved in sporting activities …and so we would want to see how we can engage them in a meaningful way and it’s for that reason why part of our strategy is to engage them in the early stages.”

Queeley also spoke to some of the programmes that are being implemented, from a police stand point, to reach out to the youth population.

“We have a number of programme in the schools,” he said. “We have revisited our school liaison programme, where we would have an officer who is attached to the school.”

He also made mentioned other programmes such as Teen and Police Service (TAPS) and what role it can play, as well as having officers assigned to the school to play a meaningful role.

“We want to prevent things before we have to detect things,” he added.

Petty added that the churches around the federation have already begun to mobilize and act upon the strategies that were developed. He added that the ministry has identified the church as a key cog in implementing the strategy.