Some time back we noted that the face of crime is getting younger. The men who are the gun criminals and the bold face chain grabbers and even those who attack people in their homes are either in their teens or barely out of their teens. Many of them failed to take advantage of the academic programmes to which they were exposed.
Indeed there are many who are simply not academically inclined but for the most part the teachers are the ones who contribute to the delinquency. They are too quick to ignore the problem child and even quicker to announce that they are not prepared to confront parents. At the same time the child has no role model within the school system. There is a paucity of the male teacher who once held the school population firmly together.
This time around there are even more distractions. Television has brought what passes for North American culture into the homes and so we now have gang violence. Schoolboys talk about Bloods and Crips, names that have no meaning whatsoever to the Guyanese. They follow what they believe are the rituals, some of them so far out that one is left to wonder at the extent of depravity in this world.
It is not that gangs are endemic or unique to Guyana but with its small population the impact is bound to be more severe. We believe that the present spate of crimes involving the young is merely an extension of the grouping established in school and made concrete by the lengthy association.
Earlier this week the police shot and killed a young man who was part of a group that had attacked and robbed a currency changer on America Street. A simple piece of research uncovered his sordid past. As a 19-year-old he attacked a group of young people studying in the Botanical Gardens. He was arrested and charged.
A few months later he became a repeat criminal. This time his victim was a girl with a laptop computer. He attacked her and when she resisted he shot her.
No one is born a criminal. Certain circumstances lead people along that path and one circumstance is undoubtedly an absence of parental supervision.
For this young man to die the way he did begs the question about the motivation of the young. There have been many young men in recent times who have been declared among the most wanted for crimes in the society. There were the young gunmen in Buxton a few years ago. When a police raiding party caught up with some, it turned out that more than a few were no older than sixteen years.
“Skinny” was still a teenager when the entire country knew of him and shuddered. He too died violently as did his accomplice, Rondell Rawlins.
The people who gunned down the five Kaieteur News pressmen were described as no more than children. And indeed they were very young. The list goes on. Another young man not yet out of his teen is languishing in jail for murder and other crimes.
Something needs to be done; the other countries are busy fashioning programmes because they are faced with the same problems. Yet, the extent to which the young are involved in crimes in some of those countries have not reached the levels to which Guyanese have become accustomed—if one could ever get accustomed to crime.
It has not escaped notice that the extended family is no more, or certainly not as prominent as it once was. It has also not escaped notice that while the young criminals are more common in the city, the incidence of youth crimes is very low in the rural areas where the communities still hold on to the responsibility that it must rear every child.
There is no quick fix. There is also no shortcut. We notice that the youthful criminals come from the depressed communities. It may be necessary for the government and civil society to begin to focus serious attention at these communities.
It may cost a lot but there is money to undertake the restoration of the society. It can never be too costly to juvenile crime.
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