Guyana must not become a “jailhouse” country for youths

 - Ramjattan launches US$5.7M project to reduce crime in homes, communities

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The country’s Public Security Minister, Khemraj Ramjattan Monday morning again repeated that the level of crime in Guyana gives him a “headache” and said he looks to the experts – because he is not an expert, he said – to fight crime which has reached alarming levels in the home and in communities.

“In Guyana, we are pretty violent,” he said at the launch of a US$5.7 million programme which will provide training for out of school youths, so their “idleness” will not get them into crime, he stated.

The programme is one of the components of the Citizen Security Strengthening Project (CSSP), which is being funded by the Inter-American Development Bank to the tune of US$20 million.

“It is a shame…what we have become as a nation,” Ramjattan declared, referring to the findings of a survey on crime and violence in Guyana.

He pointed to children as young as 11-years-old are drinking liquor and some 12-years-old are experimenting with their first spliff.

But he said Governments alone cannot solve the problem, as he pointed to the need for parents, religious institutions and other institutions of learning to be involved in nurturing young people.

He said Guyana must not become a “jailhouse country” for youths and that rather they should be able to live in a safe, stable and nurturing environment.

He said that violence has intolerable consequences for many, especially women, young women and children.

He noted that many of the victims are too young to protect themselves and others are forced by family and community pressures to keep silent about their abuse.

“Silence is violence,” he declared, suggesting that those who continue to remain have more violence meted out to them.

“The brutish are generally within our homes rather than on the streets,” he stated.

Ramjattan pointed to the need for the Police to be specially trained to deal with violence in the home.

“The ordinary Police that rush in there to deal with the criminalities on the streets and so on may not be the best set of people to deal with domestic violence, to deal with children issues,” he stated.

Guyana’s murder rate in 2013 was 20.7 per 100, 000 population. This was reduced to 15 murders per 100, 000 population last year. But Ramjattan said while there was a decline, “it is not anything to be proud of (as) there is much work to be done.

The Community Crime & Violence Prevention was contracted to a company called ADCO Engineering and Consultancy, which gave its address as 62 Hadfield and Cross Street, Werk-en-rust.

The first component of the project seeks to address aspects of crime and violence in 20 communities. The communities selected are Stabroek, Lacytown, Sophia, Kuru Kururu, Bel Air, Port Mourant, Adelphi Village, Annandale, Mon Repos, South Ruimveldt, Tuchen De Vrierden, Bush Lot Village, Albion, Wismar, Agricola, Enmore, East Le Penitence, Lusignan, McDoom, and Charlestown.

The project will look at the needs of each of the communities, and direct resources to undertake specific activities.

Minister Khemraj Ramjattan addresses the launch of the Community Crime & Violence Prevention programme Monday morning.

The persons who will benefit from the project are aged between 15 and 64 in the 20 targeted communities.

According to Police statistics, 19.5% of robberies, 19.4% of burglaries, and 13.9% of domestic violence (DV) cases (physical) in 2013 occurred in the elected communities.

Young people will be trained in various skills and would be assisted in getting jobs or starting up their own businesses.

In addition, members of these communities will be mentored, receive counselling, and would also be engaged in literacy programmes.

Non-governmental, governmental and private sector organizations will be contracted to determine and address the reasons for interpersonal violence and to address social norms that promote acceptance of violence, such as parenting, gender norms, and conflict resolution.

According to the 2011 Safe Neighbourhood Survey, there is a high tolerance of violence in interpersonal relationships and within the home in Guyana.

41.63% of the population strongly agrees that a man is justified in slapping his wife. The average 2013 domestic violence rate in the 20 target communities is 1,104.6 per 100,000 persons.

Unemployment, which is thought to increase crime and violence, and underemployment associated with low educational attainment are prevalent in the said target communities. 73.9% of target community members over 15 years of age lack any form of formal qualification — a serious impediment to accessing employment, and there is limited provision of remedial and vocational training nationally.

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