VPA calls for targeted violence intervention programmes
In the aftermath of the State of public emergency (SOE), civil society organisation the Violence Prevention Alliance (VPA) is calling for more support for the implementation of intervention programmes in Cambridge, St James. These programmes, the VPA said, should focus on disengaging residents from potential involvement in gun violence and at the same time build ownership of residents for the implementation of violence-prevention programmes.
The VPA made the call against the backdrop of findings from a recent study entitled ‘Community Voices & Initiatives for Building Safer Spaces’, which was conducted in the community. The study was geared at identifying key drivers of violence in select communities and its differentiated impact across generational and gender divides. The findings from the study were presented by researchers at a recently held steering committee meeting of the VPA.
“What we found is that there is a problem in how young people, who are or can potentially be recruited into gangs, are integrated and connected to social services in the community. One of the glaring things we found during the SOE is that the young boys we met who were “swept up” by the police were released afterwards in the community without any contact or follow up by social agencies,” said one researcher, Tarik Weekes, adding that many of the young men interviewed had been high-school dropouts and part of the daily struggle is looking for employment.
Absence of architecture
He pointed out that there was an absence of violence-prevention architecture or a support system for Cambridge, typical of what prevails in communities with gang and gun violence.
Elaborating, Weekes explained that there was a lack of youth clubs, with the exception of police youth clubs, or “a centering of young people shored up with a violence-prevention discourse” for that community.
“What we recommend is that there is quick intervention geared at boosting social services and violence prevention in that community and also ensure that young people have access to these programmes,” he said.
The research forms part of a six-country study involving Colombia, Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Jamaica. Fieldwork activities were conducted in February last year. Some of the objectives of the research were: analysing the impact of interventions from the state and other key actors on community initiatives that contribute to build safer spaces, and the impact of these community initiatives on formal interventions.
The methodology used for the research include semi-structured interviews, focus groups, fora, corner discussions and participatory learning and action tools, among others.