National Security Advisor, (Ret.) Major General Stewart Saunders, said it is gang members themselves, whom he categorized as at-risk and marginalized groups, that desired to bring about an end to violence, resulting in a significant reduction in major crimes and homicides in St. Kitts and Nevis, as well as the recent surrendering of some 30 illegal firearms and more than 70 rounds of assorted ammunition to the police.
“Subsequent to the traumatic experiences of February 2019, the groups mentioned that they wanted to put an end to violence amongst themselves and their communities,” the National Security Advisor said during his appearance on the “Straight Talk” radio programme, hosted by the Honourable Ian Patches Liburd, Monday.
“They cited the homicides, the violent trauma, attraction of youths to gang culture, the negative impact of violence on the society [and] restrictions on individuals’ movements as some of the factors leading to their request,” he said. “They further stated that they wanted assistance to changing their lifestyles in order to create peaceful environments and to become more positive contributors to society.”
The National Security Advisor cited The Peace Initiative, a programme introduced in March 2019 to help gang members transition from a life of crime to a productive lifestyle through alternative ventures such as agricultural production, construction, entrepreneurship, and other activities, as an avenue to providing that assistance.
The government has placed greater emphasis on helping individuals through its Alternative Pathway Programme, providing more opportunities for persons to participate meaningfully in nation building.
Elements of the programme include adding at-risk and marginalized individuals to social programmes, helping them to find jobs, scaling up governmental programmes to prevent recidivism in prisons and detention centers and providing opportunities for individuals to gain financial support to start businesses on terms that enable a fresh start.