If only we would dare to care
Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, addresses the official ground-breaking ceremony for the new Little London Police Station, in Westmoreland, recently.

PRIME Minister Andrew Holness tells us that a 15-year-old was among those held, allegedly, in possession of a firearm during the recent gun amnesty.

That's a tragedy, as the prime minister pointed out.

"I'm sorry for him, and I wish he didn't have to face this fate [mandatory 15-year sentence], but we have to put our feet down firmly. Let that 15-year-old be an example for the thousands of 15-year-old young men who are contemplating getting an illegal gun, using an illegal gun, 'locking' an illegal gun," Mr Holness said.

The trouble, though, is that many young men and boys in some of our more impoverished and socially depressed communities are so poorly educated and inadequately socialised they have no clear idea of what's ahead for them. Some don't care.

Sadly, for some, their existence as of now is so miserable that prison is hardly a deterrent. That's among the reasons this newspaper has consistently called for focused attention on crime prevention by our leaders through joining hands across political lines, in alliance with all well-thinking Jamaicans.

We have argued in this space that society, acting in unity, needs to pay attention to the conditions that lead to crime, including hopelessness, poor socialisation, inadequate education — virtually non-existent for some — and extreme poverty.

That's in addition to the very necessary work by the security forces and the judiciary to capture criminals and apply the full force of the law. And that should be with the aim of not just punishment, but very importantly, providing opportunity for rehabilitation.

From our perspective, the forces of law and order will only sustainably succeed in overcoming criminals if they gain the support of people at the grass roots, community level.

How is that support to be achieved? It seems to us that comprehensive, all-of-society support for the security forces will only come when the poorest among us genuinely believe they have a stake in an orderly, low-crime environment.

We believe that the alliance across political party lines, and including State agencies, the business sector, religious groups, trade unions, and so-called civil society working collectively to improve the socio-economic conditions of the poorest can, over time, reap that much-desired collective faith and belief.

It's the reason we have enthusiastically embraced the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica's (PSOJ's) $2-billion five-year Project STAR (social transformation and renewal) aimed at socio-economic intervention for 20 of our most deprived and troubled communities.

We believe initiatives to help people help themselves through community organisation, skills training, business start-ups, parenting training, leadership training, homework centres, employment fairs, et al, should be extended across Jamaica, backed to the hilt by the alliance we are proposing.

We should consider that there are community leaders among us who are already doing their small part to make a difference.

Custos of Manchester Mr Garfield Green, through his beliefs, values and attitudes programme, is one such. Mr Green and his team are reaching out to young people and even adults who have lost hope and purpose.

His story, published in this newspaper earlier this week, about helping an illiterate teenager who dropped out of school after being bullied, should be an example for all.

We all have a positive role to play, if only we would dare to care.

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