Attorney General and Minister of Home Affairs Adriel Brathwaite (at lectern) as he delivered the feature address at a Consultation on Violence in Our Society: From Prevention to Treatment organised by the National Task Force on Crime Prevention (NTFCP) at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre. Also pictured are (left to right) Rev. Dr. Cicely Athill-Horsford,Director of the NTFCP Cheryl Willoughby and Senior Research Officer at the NTFCP Kim Ramsay.??(A.Miller/BGIS)

Too many young people in Barbados are turning to acts of violence as a result of their inability to resolve conflict.

This was revealed by Attorney General and Minister of Home Affairs, Adriel Brathwaite, as he delivered the feature address at a National Consultation: Violence in Our Society: From Prevention to Treatment today at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre. ??It is one of the activities to commemorate Crime Awareness Month.

Mr. Brathwaite told stakeholders that Government would spare no effort in its search to fully understand the factors that contribute to youth crime and to address these problems through proactive strategic approaches.

He revealed that statistics from the Royal Barbados Police Force indicated that for the six-month period from January 1, this year, until June 30, a total of 1,280 persons between the ages of 11 and 38 were arrested and charged by the police. One hundred and thirty-five of these persons, he noted were between the ages of 11and 17.

The Attorney General added that girls were not exempt from criminal behaviour. "Of the total number of crimes, 175 were committed by females. Out of this number, 26 were between the ages of 11 and 17. Although this number is small when compared to the males, there is still need for some attention to be paid to our females," he stressed.

In terms of identifying the root causes of such behaviour, Mr. Brathwaite pointed out that research had shown that violent behaviour and the inability to resolve conflict usually started from an early age.??

"In a 2010 study on Juvenile Delinquency and Victimisation, the Task Force surveyed 649 primary school children and 726 secondary school children to get an understanding of the level of juvenile delinquency in Barbados. What we learnt from the research was that 25 per cent of the primary school children who participated in the study admitted to stealing, while 44 per cent of the secondary school students admitted to stealing.

"Twenty one per cent of primary school children admitted that they used force against other students to get what they wanted, while 43 per cent of the secondary school students admitted that they used force against other students to get something that they wanted. Bullying is one of the issues that I am encouraging you to give your attention to during the working sessions," he said.

The Attorney General was of the view that the enormity of the problem could not be underestimated, saying, "As a nation, Barbadians have always been a proud and industrious people. This important aspect of our culture cannot be maintained if our most valuable resource (our youth) is non-productive and creating further stress on the overburdened criminal justice and social services agencies."

Speaking in general about the overall crime rate, he explained that over a 30-year span between 1980 and 2010, Barbados had a relatively low murder rate, with some 662 such crimes committed. However, he said: "What is alarming for my office is that in 75 per cent of these murders, victims were young men, while 79 per cent of the perpetrators were also young men. This research also revealed that Barbados is experiencing a steady increase in the use of guns to settle disputes. It is interesting to note that drugs and alcohol were contributing factors in committing the offences."

Moreover, Mr. Brathwaite singled out the declining moral values in society, as contributing factors to crime, where persons were now resorting to stealing and robbery for material gain. He said he was very concerned with the type of behaviour he was seeing displayed by some young men who were defacing buildings with graffiti and resorting to other acts that were disturbing. He pointed out that in contrast, "Our parents and grandparents worked hard to feed their families and were very innovative at creating opportunities for an income to support their families".

In light of the situation, the Attorney General stated that government was moving swiftly to address these concerns and that the National Task Force on Crime Prevention (NTFCP) would identify through its research, risk factors that lead to criminality and would respond to those risk factors with diversionary crime prevention programmes.

He told his audience that the NTFCP was currently working with the Ministry of Youth Affairs and several other government agencies to develop prevention programmes in the schools and communities across the country.

The National Consultation will come to a close tomorrow.


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