A scolding for Diego Martin residents as the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) pleaded with parents to “take charge of their homes” if they are truly serious about tackling gang violence and juvenile delinquency.
At a Western Division town meeting on Wednesday at the Central Diego Martin Community Centre, residents complained to the police about a wide range of issues, from a lack of patrols to issues with garbage, fireworks and loud music.
However, when asked what the TTPS is doing to arrest gang violence and young people joining gangs, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Collis Hazel asked what they were doing to control their children.
“Since when can’t we talk to our children? Since when can’t we tell them how to behave and how to conduct themselves? Since when do we allow our children to reach our homes after 9 o’clock in the night and there is nobody accountable to? Where have we gone as a society? As a person? You couldn’t’ do that when you were young, so why are you allowing it now? Hazel asked loudly.
Hazel said while the TTPS has projects to guide young people, it is not the police’s job to raise them.
“You are the parents of your children and your children’s children, and you have a responsibility in order to take care of your children, and for far too long, when the parents have failed, the church has failed, the school has failed, society leaves the responsibility to the police and the judiciary, tonight West End I’m putting it squarely on the parents of these communities to ensure that we return to the bargaining table,” Hazel said to light applause.
The ACP reminded those in attendance that they brought their children into the world, and they can’t shy away from their responsibility.
He added: “We have 97 police run youth clubs throughout Trinidad and Tobago. In those 97 we have to find 97 police officers from our pool to work with these young people in order to shape these young people so that they can be a catalyst for change. However, we don’t do it alone, we do it with teachers and leaders from the community who work together in order to deal with certain social issues in order to prevent social decay.” He told those in attendance that recently the TTPS has realised that things operate in a “concentric circle.”
“So, in the failure of society in its parenting, the schools and some of its outreach programmes, children are placed before the courts, police officers will lay charges and put them before the courts.
“The judiciary put it right squarely back now in the hands of the police, who, in recent times, are sending back to police youth clubs to supervise children by way of providing them with an opportunity where they can do community service orders, so here it is,” ACP Hazel said making a circular motion with his finger, “360 round the circle, so the police take them off the streets for bad behaviour, they are through the court system and the court sends them straight back to the police youth club and tell us to rehabilitate them.”
The Assistant Police Commissioner said it is important for parents to understand the dilemma they work with in society.
“Hence the reason we are asking for equal partnership.”
However, he sought to underscore that while he is calling for more discipline, he is not encouraging abuse.
“We can be firm but not harsh, we can love without inflicting punishment, but clearly there has to be a responsibility and role that parents need to play in assuring our youth don’t join gangs but join groups,” he said.
The town hall meeting style forum is a mandate from Police Commissioner Erla Harewood Christopher, who asked that each division meet with the public at least once per month.