Ag Commissioner: Community projects ideal approach to crime fighting

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

GETTING INVOLVED: From left: Head of the St Joseph Police Youth Club WPC Sacha Williams-Goddard, Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh and acting Police Commissioner McDonald Jacob answer questions on the club’s newest initiative on Sunday. – SUREASH CHOLAI

ACTING Police Commissioner McDonald Jacob says community programmes like those launched in St Joseph on Sunday were “the ideal approach to crime fighting.”

The St Joseph Police Youth Club launched its Bringing the market back to Market Street and Feeding Families for Generations projects at its club on the corner of Abercromby and Market Streets, St Joseph.

Jacob along with the Health Minister and St Joseph MP Terrence Deyalsingh, senator and Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries Clarence Rambharat and Government senator Renuka Sagramsingh-Sooklal were present at the launch. The projects were launched and spearheaded by WPC Sascha Williams-Goddard.

Jacob said these types of programmes were very important not just for St Joseph, but also wider TT.

He also said this was so because once the country got its young people involved in positive activities like these it will help to reduce all aspects of deviant behaviour.

“That aspect of that in-depth involvement in positive things, developing a positive belief, that attachment is very, very important.

“Because this programme – even though it is identified as dealing with that whole aspect of agriculture and bringing back the market to market street and feeding families for generations – it is also about the development of the young people.”

Jacob said there is a life-skill component in the programme where young people will learn different kinds of financial, entrepreneurial and conflict resolution skills.

He called on the families and communities in St Joseph to get their young people involved in the projects.

“When that happens, we lay the first layer in these young people not reaching the stage to be policed by us. To reach the point where we have to take persons (sic), charge them, take them before the court and then in the prisons, for the prisons now to deal with their rehabilitation and restorative aspect.

“To restore these people back to society to so they can perform in a positive way in the society. This is putting the actual shield to prevent deviant behaviour which tends to trend into crime,” he said.

He said the centre was also used as one of the police’s conflict resolution and mediation centres which was launched about two months ago.

People in the community who were having issues could come to the centre, work with the team and have issues resolved, Jacob said.

He said it was realised that a lot of the minor issues were causing violent behaviour and even murders in TT.

Jacob added that he was always going to support these kinds of initiatives as he believes it is the first platform to help young people to be involved in positive activities and reduce the recruitment drive by gang leaders and people involved in negativity in the society.

Deyalsingh said the perception of food growing and animal rearing needs to change.

“It is not this back-breaking endeavour that we thought it was…that our parents and grandparents got involved in, which is why so many people moved away from it.”

He said technology changed the agricultural sector.

Deyalsingh hoped Sunday’s the launch would change the mindsets of young people about agriculture.

“Young people say they want opportunities but very often they equate opportunities with a corporation wuk, a URP wuk, a wuk in the hospital, a wuk in WASA, a wuk in T&TEC…

“And if they don’t get any of those, they consider themselves to have been failed by society.”

Deyalsingh said agriculture now was a business and people have to invest in themselves.

“The country will invest in you and when you invest in yourselves using the opportunities that the Government has put out there, you will get a return.”

He added that agriculture is ripe with opportunities and it was a basically tax-free zone.

WPC Williams-Goddard said the two projects were being worked on for some time.

She said there was a need for sustainability and stable income and the club brought those needs together in crafting the projects.

She said Market Street once housed an actual market, not in the formal sense, but vendors would come to the street and sell their crops.

The projects mission is twofold: to tell its history will marrying it to the club’s agricultural and environmental mission.

Williams-Goddard said the club’s environmental team is going to be chairing the project and its members will be rearing crops and exploring a variety of ways and systems to produce foods and crops.

There is also the family food bank where its members and their families will grow different types of produce which will then be shared, she said.

The food grown will be brought in and distributed to those in need.

“We are really going to be working to support each other to ensure that no one in our community is hungry,” she said.