Gov’t seeking to save young thugs from crime
THE Government is hoping to save gun-toting, fearless youngsters between the ages 12 and 17 from themselves, before they become hardened criminals.
This was disclosed by National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang who said this intervention is to be done through social activism and transformation efforts which can rehabilitate young people.
“The 17 to 25 age group poses a particular problem, which we have identified. Most of them don’t have children, they have no responsibility, they are fearless, and they are used by the gangs as the ‘shottas’ and that’s a dangerous group, but we do think some of them can be rescued,” he said.
Chang said that to get through these wayward youth, it will require “strong action”, noting that the strategy would have to entail “catching them without the firearm”.
“They are usually the ones who, when encountered, will begin to fire at the police, because they are fearless. They have a gun; they feel powerful,” he said.
He stressed that they will have to be rehabilitated at a younger age, “as by the time they get to [age] 26, 27, 28, 30, they are seasoned criminals and the police must be given the tools to ensure they can apprehend them, prosecute them, lock them up and if necessary, separate them from [the society] for the rest of their productive lives”.
Chang revealed that police statistics show that persons within the 25 to 44 age group are the primary perpetrators of criminal violence and constitute the majority of victims.
“In 2022, 63 per cent of murder perpetrators fell into the age group 25 to 44 and 52 per cent of all murder victims,” he said.
The national security minister further argued that this age group “is not one that we try to send back to school”, and would not be amenable to restorative justice and diversion programmes. “We have to deal with them through efficient and effective policing,” he said.
“These are criminals who need to be apprehended, charged, imprisoned and rehabilitated under controlled circumstances,” he said.
In the meantime, Chang said the Ministry of National Security is intervening in vulnerable communities to reduce gang recruitment and provide a model that can be scaled nationally by the respective portfolio ministries and agencies.
“In crime prevention, we must onboard all stakeholders, the residents, ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), private sector, and our international donor partners,” he said.
Chang further noted that the ministry, in partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), is implementing a government-to-government programme geared towards improving the relationship between the security forces and communities with a focus on at-risk youth.
He said this is currently being implemented in nine communities and across 22 schools, with key activities including violence audits and training of community groups in basic conflict mediation and interruption, trafficking in persons, and identification and reporting of child abuse and domestic violence.
The programme also provides case management and psychosocial support to at-risk youth and their families.