Fertile ground for gangs
70% of school dropouts are boys from inner-city communities, says ChangWednesday, September 22, 2021
BY BRITTNY HUTCHINSON
Boys living in inner-city communities account for 70 per cent of the school dropout rate, providing fertile ground for criminal gang recruitment, according to Dr Horace Chang, the island's minister of national security.
Chang, who was addressing a virtual Youth Summit on Crime and Violence yesterday, International Day of Peace, shared what he said was data spanning the past 10 years.
“No wonder we have [the] emergence of more and more gangs. These are boys and young men that social anthropologists refer to as recruitable to gangs,” he argued.
He pointed out that data in 2020 showed that 16 per cent of murder victims were between the ages of 15 and 24. While in 2019 and 2018 youth victims relative to murders were 21 per cent and 22 per cent.
On average, he said that 40 per cent of all known murderers are young men between ages 15 and 24.
“In other words, for every 10 persons arrested for murder [four] are young men between the ages of 15 and 24,” he explained.
“Respectively, youth within this age range have taken up leadership roles within gangs and have been groomed by dons and other violence producers to commit gun and other violent crimes. They are being trained to gain leadership in the notorious gangs. This data is still telling us that our youth are at risk,” he said.
In February this year Dr Chang had told Jamaica Observer editors and senior reporters that the redemption of several high schools in neglected communities across the island that are literally serving as “factories for gunmen” and tributaries for prisons must be front and centre of any solution to the country's crime problem.
Those schools, he said, are populated by more male than female students, and in most cases the majority of the girls drop out due to pregnancy.
“Nobody goes there who wants to go there,” Dr Chang had said.
Earlier that month, in an address to Parliament, he pointed to the results of a 2012 prison survey which revealed that 20 schools “had a very high recurrence rate of incarcerated individuals”.
“These schools clearly have challenges that need to be addressed,” he said at the time. “Therefore, we have moved decisively to ensure that social investment is not a singular project by specially paid individuals, but to orient the primary government agencies operating in these spaces to focus on these particular areas in an objective manner. We have identified the communities; we need to know what we are getting in there to do.”
Yesterday, Dr Chang said the data he was sharing show that a high number of young males between the ages of 15 and 24 were victims and perpetrators of crime since last year.
The Youth Summit on Crime and Violence is supported by United Nations Development Programme under the auspices of its Amplifying Youth Voice and Action (AYVA) project, in partnership with UNESCO Caribbean, the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, Planning Institute of Jamaica, and RISE Life Management Services.
Chang said the mandate of the AYVA project is consistent with the direction the Government has taken in its security plan, which is part of the overall effort for a secure and peaceful society.
“I wish to commend the youth leaders and other partners who have aligned themselves with the AYVA project. The fact that your activities are youth-led is even more encouraging when we examine that against the backdrop of our crime data,” he said.
Several youth programmes, he added, have been implemented with key partners to enhance the proper development of young people in areas such as technical training for truck driving and pilot projects involving the use of music, sports and technology.