Hinds: Government to address root causes of crime

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds and Chief of Defence Staff Vice Air Marshall Darryl Daniel check out one of the new military vans during a handover ceremony on February 9 at Vmcott, Beetham. – Angelo Marcelle

MINISTER of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds said on Friday the Government has big plans to address the causes of crime.

He was speaking to reporters at a vehicle handover ceremony at the Vehicle Maintenance Company at the Beetham Estate, Laventille.

He said this effort needs hard work and passion, not talk.

Hinds recalled the Prime Minister’s recent promise of $100 million to address this issue, that is, to tackle causes of crime in “hot spot” communities.

“You will have observed recently that many of our young people grow up devoid of the benefit of the stable guidance of parents as they should have. I am personally aware as an MP.”

He recalled meeting many young people who had not had the benefit of growing up with a sense of morality, patriotism, love and respect.

“So when you have a society where that is the unfortunate state of affairs, then the society in our view has a responsibility to intervene and play a maternalistic and even paternalistic role.

“It is in this regard that this $100 million will target communities where these conditions are obvious, with the driving support of the Defence Force which agency has been very steeped in dealing with youth development whether it was Civilian Conservation Corps, Milat, MyPart, and those kind of programmes.”

He said the $100 million would be deployed alongside the Defence Force and police which each had a plethora of youth programmes around TT doing the same thing.

Hinds hoped communities could be engaged, to develop their young people.

By this, he hoped youngsters would understand what was meant by love, patience, discussion (not violence), honesty, faith in yourself/self-esteem.

Youngsters must know how to work hard to achieve what they want, not just jealously desire what others have and try to wrest it from them.

“You don’t have to cheat to be a winner. You don’t have to steal to get enough. I am quoting David Rudder, you see.

“You can work, you can pray, you can think, you can dream, you can be ambitious and you can achieve.”

He advocated people sitting around a table and conversing, not fighting. Hinds urged respect for women, especially if pregnant, plus children.

He urged love for the elderly. “When you see an elder, something inside of you instinctively says, ‘Protect, protect, protect.’ Not grab their bag. Not burn down their house. Not threaten them and discomfort them. That is not it.

“So these programmes are designed to reach the hearts of them and that is underway. I have already got a conceptual design of the kind of thing we would work.”

He said Dr Rowley has assembled an inter-ministerial team towards this effort.

“We will work together with the Defence Force and Commissioner of Police and come up with some programmes and go to these communities and try to soften the tone for the benefit of all of us. Because there seems to be a missing generation, or two.”

The police and criminal justice system would otherwise deal with serious miscreants, he added.

A recent report by the Joint Select Committee (JSC) on National Security called for a curbing of the socio-economic causes of crime (laid in Parlement last December).

The report linked crime to deprivation and socio-economic disparities in education, occupation and family life.

“The criminal justice system can be viewed as ‘downstream’ or a reactive arm when other social safety nets – education, economy, health – fail.”

It said crime hotspots should “present an opportunity for increased social attention, but frequently instead experience only increased police attention.”

The report found, “Neither the social system nor the criminal justice system are sufficiently equipping vulnerable children to move past the criminal justice system.”

The report said the 2013 report by Prof Selwyn Ryan, No time to quit, lamented that vulnerable young males were deprived of role models at home, an inadequate education system ignoring their needs, and their growing underperformance in the education system.

The report said no specific action or policy has yet been taken as a result of the April 2023 Caricom crime symposium in TT, but the start of this dialogue was a key step.

It remarked, “Well-planned crime prevention strategies not only prevent crime and victimisation but also promote community safety.”

The report urged the setting up of a roots of crime working group whose members would include staff from the justice system to officials from health, social services, and family care, both in the government and civil society.

“Introduce increased positive police presence in hotspot areas as a means of increasing the positive dialogue between police and community members.

“Develop educational programming for young people in hotspot areas.

It urged collaboration among the justice system, educators and social service workers, to deliver anti-crime programmes for young people in hotspot areas, such as increasing resilience, avoiding gangs, and conflict management. To reduce repeat offending, the report urged prison inmates to get access to education, skills training, family visits, mental health help and employment upon release.