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Trace crime to its source
Sometimes it helps to step back and look at the picture unfolding before us in a whole new light. In this case, it is crime that we need to view from a different angle. Originally I had planned to vent my anger over the escalating crime problem in T&T, but there is too much anger radiating from every direction in this country, and it’s not serving us well. Crime has touched us all in some way, and I note with great sadness the loss of a conscientious police officer, Sgt Hayden Manwaring, who died last week in the line of duty. In our grief and anger, we don’t seem to realise that we would never get the full picture of the crime situation if we feel that fighting crime is about chasing criminals after they have committed crimes. We would not put all the puzzling pieces of the crime situation together if we just look at the end product: crime itself.
What we need to do is concentrate more on the root of crime. We need to trace crime back to its source. We need to realise that crime in T&T is everyone’s problem, and we all have to join together to fight it. We can’t rely on foreign law enforcement officers to solve our crime problems or lecture us about our crime situation because no one knows—or should know—the cultural components of crime in our country better than us. This is a problem that we must solve ourselves and it starts with realising that we cannot gloss over the problems and issues that are causing crime: poverty, rage and cynicism are somewhere near the top of the list.
We need to realise that everyone has to work together; government ministries must unite and come up with a plan to change the picture of our eroding landscape, socially speaking. No one ministry can take all of the heat for crime. Ordinary citizens must look for ways to make a difference through community service. Fathers have to realise they need to take responsibility for their children. Families must reclaim their responsibility in raising children. Televisions and video games can’t be babysitters. Radio stations need to examine the music they play and ask if it is providing uplifting messages or feeding hate and anger in the young people of this nation. I have never believed in censorship when it comes to music, but I do believe in responsible behaviour when it comes to deciding what messages we will put into our children’s minds. We all need to be more conscious of the images and messages we are sending young people.
The way to begin to change this sad, gruesome picture of crime is to consider the role of education in our society. This is not a theory that I picked up in a book somewhere, although I am sure there is much to read about this subject. I am speaking from my own experience as a volunteer who has worked as a CXC English teacher in the Youth Training Centre (YTC) where other volunteers, like myself, try to make a difference with some of the angry young men who have been arrested for crimes and placed in YTC. A relevant education that addresses the needs of society is the first step in changing the crime scene that tarnishes T&T. Education has always had the purpose of preparing young people to fit into society. We know what a colonial education looked like. It produced mannerly, respectful graduates who believed that the colonial model of education would provide a bright and better future even when it failed to provide opportunities for colonial subjects.
In colonial times, the purpose of education was simple: conformity. Just connect the dots, follow the rules and the picture of life would reveal itself. Fair or unfair as that system was, you could consider yourself educated and that promise of a better future held meaning. No one buys into that model of colonial education any more, yet the education system does not reflect that it has changed with the times to address the problems and issues that plague us. It does not examine the problems and issues of today’s youth, particularly the angry young men among us. We should not accept or condone the rage that bombards us, but we do need to understand how that anger festers and manifests itself in crime. We need to understand how to diffuse this anger, bitterness and hatred that try to beat us or terrorise us into submission. We need to reclaim our values and teach those values to our children both at home and at school in order to establish peace and hope once again.
There is so much we can all do to make this a better country. Relying solely on the police to handle the crime situation will not work, because it is doing nothing more than cutting off the dragon’s tail. We cannot afford to be a passive society. It’s time to take action.
Next week: The role of education in fighting crime.
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