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Safe spaces for at-risk youth - Gov’t to undertake special programmes to aid children and the vulnerable

Published:Saturday | November 3, 2018 | 12:00 AMJason Cross/Gleaner Writer
"Safe spaces for children will be a good therapeutic tool" - stakeholders.
National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang

With too many of the nation's children being subjected to violence and sexual abuse, stakeholders are calling on the Government to fast-track plans to create safe spaces for youth, which they believe will be a good therapeutic tool.

Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang told The Gleaner that funds are being secured so that the Government can act on the initiative.

"Some of the things are being done already. Rewards are being issued," Chang said, noting that while there has been a decrease in murders and crimes committed against children, he is very concerned about the gruesomeness of recent murders.

The latest police statistics reveal that from January 1 to October 31, 2018, a total of 353 major crimes were committed against children across Jamaica. That figure represents 128 fewer major crimes than occurred during the same period in 2017, when it was 481. Of the 353 children, 38 were murdered (24 males and 14 females). This indicates a 21 per cent decrease when compared to last year when 48 of the nation's youth were killed.

Chang also noted that "In terms of working seriously with schools in vulnerable communities, that will come in a real way by January. But I must say that much of the activity has already started in terms of putting together a budget."




Chang highlighted that while attention would be given to children, in particular, the Government would be focusing on all vulnerable groups.

"We are looking at all vulnerable groups because old people are being murdered. Returning residents were attacked not long ago in numbers. We even have disabled people who were attacked in crude and brutal ways," said the national security minister.

"We are looking at significant anti-violence campaigns that will work actively with community-based groups such as the Citizen Security and Justice Programme and the Peace Management Initiative. And we have to beef up our Community Safety and Security Branch, which works in schools, especially in volatile areas."

As it relates to schools located in at-risk communities, Chang said that plans are being drafted to introduce special programmes that can help to bring down the number of children killed or abused.

"That is coming fast, but I can't make an announcement yet as to when. However, the Commissioner (of Police Antony Anderson) is looking at restoring the strength of our Criminal Investigations Bureau. In schools, we are looking at initiating things that engage a lot of our young people in vulnerable communities," said the minister.

"We are seeking to use music, technology, and sports as critical parts of what we do. Boys will get into music very easily because they love music. We would give them a decent playing field for those who love sports, but they will still have a place where they go and take instructions and not feel neglected."

Among a number of solutions, Dr Elizabeth Ward, board chairman of the Violence Prevention Alliance, recommended that drumming be part of the entire set-up.

"It has to be a supervised and structured activity. It is not just that they are on a playing field with a ball, but that there is really a programme of life skills. Drumming is a brilliant thing," she said.