Mark Titus, Gleaner Writer
Despite the cold clutches of the crime monster having a number of communities in its grip, Adenike Stephens, community action coordinator for the Citizen Security and Justice Programme (CSJP), western region, believes some headway is being made in transforming the lives of at-risk youth in Western Jamaica.
"We have made some inroads, but it is a challenge because they can make 10 times what we are offering to them through our programmes or a regular job, so we have to be working on their mindset so that they see that the honest dollar is the best dollar," said Stephens at a PeaceMobile concert, information village, and community showcase at the Anchovy Primary School in St James on Sunday.
The event also marked the addition of the Greater Anchovy area, as well as the community of Green Pond, to the 11 St James communities already being served by the Ministry of National Security-managed entity.
According to Stephens, the communities, long regarded as the focal points for illicit activities, have begun to embrace the CSJP and its programmes.
"It is encouraging because a lot of them are tired of the killing, having seen some of their friends killed right before their eyes."
Stephens and her team of 17 field officers cannot be seen as political or close to the police as confidentiality is essential.
She explained that CSJP has focused on mitigating crime and violence risk factors, as well as building resilience among youth in the targeted communities.
The communities include Flankers, Norwood, Rose Heights, Granville, Farm Heights, Mount Salem, Canterbury, North Gully, Salt Spring, and Glendevon.
Since 2011, scholarships have been awarded to more than 200 at-risk youth to continue their secondary and tertiary education. The success of the Goals For Life programme has been demonstrated in the fact that of the 220 youth who have participated in the programme, 75 per cent are still involved and have gone on to learn a skill or a trade.
"They will not say what they have done, but will admit to not having a clean record, but we are about second and third chances. We will not give up on them," said Stephens.