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Police heartened by support for youth curfew in West Kingston

BY KIMMO MATTHEWS Observer staff reporter matthewsk@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, February 12, 2014    

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THE police say they are encouraged by the level of support their initiative to impose a youth curfew in West Kingston has garnered.

"Since the idea was introduced a number of persons, residents included, have been coming on board," Senior superintendent in charge of the division Steve McGregor told the Jamaica Observer.

Opposition spokesman on National Security Derrick Smith has also joined the list of people giving their support to the move.

"I welcome the efforts of the Kingston Western Police Division to seek to bring incidents of crime and violence under control, through various initiatives, including the nightly curfew for minors," said Smith.

In a recently issued media statement, Smith made the point that curfews have been tried in many countries, cities and communities, globally, with the United States among the countries providing very good examples of how effective they can be in reducing crime, when properly planned, implemented, maintained and communicated.

Police last Monday said the curfew would target youth as part of a crusade against crime.

"Under the programme parents and guardians will be required to have their children under 17-years-old from off the streets by 9:00 pm," McGregor said.

According to the senior lawman, the programme is one of several initiatives that will be implemented in the area in coming months and is part of an effort by the police to return discipline in the area and keep youngsters, who are being lured by gangs, in line.

At the same time, the police have warned that they will be maintaining a strong presence in the volatile division as they seek to cripple the operations of criminals who continue to show wanton disregard for life, law and order.

Criminals in their efforts to wreak havoc in the communities, the police said, were not afraid to harm even women and children.

The latest incident took place little over a week ago when 11-year-old Kerica Butler was shot by gunmen along Pink Lane.

Police report that the girl was shot in the chin as criminals engaged in a gun battle in the area.

This followed last September's incident where 11-year-old student of Clan Carthy Primary School, Tassanique James was fatally shot by criminals.

Police said under the programme, law enforcers will be working with officials from the Citizen Security and Justice Programme to train residents to become community monitors.

"These monitors will be working with parents and family members of children in communities across the division to ensure that young people adhere to the programme," McGregor said.

Explaining how the initiative works, McGregor said on the first two occasions that children fail to follow the rules, the community monitors will engage their parents in an effort to get them to comply.

If there is no change, then a third-strike rule will be implemented, resulting in the police visiting the homes and, if necessary, taking action under the Child Care and Protection Act.

The Act states that parents have the main responsibility for the care and protection of children. It also stipulates a punishment of three years in prison for child neglect.

"We have been trying the old way of doing things for too long," said McGregor, who warned that it was time for all stakeholders at the community level to work hand in hand with the police to bring about change.

The only way change could come about in the communities, according to McGregor, was "through a social revolution".

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