The value of training and behaviour change in fighting crime
DUNCAN...Project STAR is aimed at pulling all stakeholders together including private sector, civil society government and all other bodies to focus on social, economic and community transformation. (Photo: Karl Mclarty)

In May 2018, at the launch of a youth innovation centre in Westmoreland, then junior minister Mr Floyd Green spoke of proactively providing viable alternatives for young people who could be attracted by crime.

Youth innovation centres, which fall under the youth ministry, are dedicated to encouraging entrepreneurship and self-help skills among young people.

Back in 2018 at that launch in Westmoreland, Mr Green said that integral to the anti-crime fight "is touching people and providing them with a different pathway [through] education, training and personal development."

We are reminded of Mr Green's comment of four years ago by news of young people benefiting from the St James Youth Innovation Centre's (YIC) Explore Enterprise business training.

We are told by organisers that the one-week project, targeted "unattached" 17 to 30 year olds, in inner-city St James communities, "... not excluding anybody else, but persons who may be at home not doing anything or running their small businesses and are not fully competent in entrepreneurial skills..."

St James youth empowerment officer Mr Damian Green said that alongside business training, the participants are eligible for grants to support their enterprise.

It's appropriate, we think, that the business training initiative took place in western Jamaica, traditional apex of cynical and destructive lotto scamming, which is luring many of our young people from legally acceptable livelihoods.

Obviously, much, much more than the referenced training project in St James is needed if many now headed down the wrong road are to be convinced that the risk of jail, or worse, is not worth it.

Which, as this newspaper has said previously, is why the $2-billion, five-year Project STAR (social transformation and renewal) initiated by the Private sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), aimed at achieving positive behaviour change, should be embraced by all and expanded over time.

In fact, as we have said repeatedly and as Opposition Senator Mr Lambert Brown said recently in specific reference to illegal guns and ammunition, there has to be "national mobilisation" to achieve behaviour change.

Mr Keith Duncan of the PSOJ described his organisation's STAR project as an all-of-society approach including job creation, building of community small businesses, skills training, homework centres, and social work partnerships with government and non-governmental agencies, to encourage empowerment of communities and self esteem.

Mr Brown, in his recent presentation to the Senate, argued passionately that "Everything can begin to be all right if we work this thing together, nationally, across party lines, across religious denomination, bringing in our artistes, bringing in our students, bringing in our civic society…we can do it…let us do this together ..."

It's long overdue, but we sense a growing agreement among all sides that this all-society approach is doable.

We recognise that strong police investigative work supported by efficient intelligence gathering and state-of-the-art surveillance technology leading to imprisonment of offenders must be central to any anti-crime fight.

But if we are to minimise tragedies such as a schoolgirl killing another because of inconsequential gossip, and the brutal gang violence in our economically and socially depressed urban centres, a united, national push for behaviour change, allied to capacity building, must also be front and centre.

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