East End focuses on youth concerns

A public meeting in East End on Wednesday night raised the usual issues of traffic and drug offences, police presence or lack thereof, and crime statistics. But the major portion of discussion focused on concerns about young people before they get involved in crime.

Chief Inspector Richard Barrow, area commander for policing in the Eastern Districts, called the meeting. He and officers met with Bodden Town residents on Monday and were scheduled to meet with North Siders on Thursday (Caymanian Compass, 27 November).

Ms Velma Herod introduced the topic of young people who get in trouble, asking if the police could pass a law to deal with first offenders more realistically – punishment should be hard enough that they would understand the consequence of further offending but at the same time give them an opportunity to change their behaviour.

Mr. Barrow explained that police do not make the law, they enforce it. ‘You don’t want to be too soft or too hard,’ he agreed.

Minister for Works Arden McLean, who is also the East End MLA, pointed out that the Alternative Sentencing Law was passed to provide a variety of sentencing possibilities.

He said young offenders should get ‘a hard enough slap that they know they are wrong.’ They need to know ‘we are not condoning your behaviour… we want you brought back on the straight and narrow.’

Ms Sylvia Wilks, chief executive officer of Cayman Islands Youth Development Consortium, pointed to the amount of money being spent on the rehabilitation of young offenders. Her emphasis was on helping young people develop their potential.

‘If we work with those on the borderline of becoming a problem, they won’t become a problem,’ she asserted.

Her work with young people made her realise that not all of them want to be in Girls Brigade or Boy Scouts, but they do want to be involved in their community.

‘When you get them together to share their thoughts, you can’t leave it there,’ Ms Wilks pointed out. Young people need to think out how they can work toward turning some aspect of their ideas into reality.

To accomplish this, she is trying to establish community support networks to link youth with people who want to help. At the police meeting in Bodden Town two nights earlier, one person had volunteered to help, Ms Wilks said. She was setting two as her goal in East End.

‘How can we work together?’ asked Pastor Louis Sully. ‘We are trying to get this hall for activities,’ he said, referring to the United Church Hall in which the meeting was taking place. He endorsed the concept of creating some mentorship in the district.

Some people brought up discipline problems in previous generations and how they were dealt with. Mr. McLean mentioned a more current concern with youngsters riding go-karts on the road at night without lights. He thanked the police community relations officer who had been involved in recent fishing, volleyball and dominos tournaments.

Ms Wilks later commented that it was great to have recreational activities but they needed to be balanced with developmental activities.

Her second volunteer approached her while refreshments were served toward the end of the evening.

The meeting went on well beyond the 7.30 -9pm timeframe advertised because of audience participation.

East End residents responded to advice from Constable Adrian Neblett of the Financial Crime Unit, about scams and false charities asking for money. He warned that some local residents had fallen for a scam after receiving official-looking documents over the Internet.

Mr. Frank Conolly thanked Mr. Barrow for holding the meeting and told him ‘Your staff is doing very well.’

Mr. Barrow acknowledged going through ‘troubled times’ and thanked the public and Cabinet Ministers for their support.

Deputy Area Commander Ian Yearwood said the officers had come to the meeting to listen and had received food for thought.