A six-part program highlighting the challenges and impact of social issues on young people brought the realities of life home to 170 children at Clifton Hunter High School.

The youth crime prevention day in April, facilitated by the Youth Anti-Crime Trust and sponsored by Sol Petroleum, involved experts in criminal justice and rehabilitation including ex-prisoners, prison officers, police officers and counselors, sharing their experiences and knowledge concerning the causes, consequences and penalties of crime.

Other sessions addressed topics such as gangs, guns, life in prison, bullying and the role of the police, in addition to “Let’s Talk,” a session that presents the real life dilemmas affecting teenagers in the Cayman Islands.

The consensus by the students about the day’s information session was that they were now less likely to make poor choices that will eventually lead to a life of imprisonment and despair, organizers said in a press release.

“For me, the youth crime prevention day brought awareness of youth crime and ways to prevent it in my life and my friend’s lives, I learned a lot,” said Fabian, one of the students who attended the program. (The school has requested that only students’ first names be used.)

He said meeting law enforcement officers from the police and prison services “widened my thoughts about the causes and effects of crime, even in school. On the other hand, the program provided us with knowledge about drugs, weapons and peer pressure and how to avoid gangs, as well as the effects of bullying and other violence.”

Youth crime presenter Katina Anglin said she saw a lot of herself in those Year 10 students. “They’re great kids; they’re full of potential, but like myself at that age, are struggling with many issues.”

She said adults sometimes are unaware of the challenges teenagers are going through.

“I am hopeful that what I have shared will impact them to the extent that for some they seek help for their issues, and for the others to make choices that avoid [leading] to a life of crime, drugs and violence; that they can all lead productive lives.”

Ms. Anglin shared with the students her life “horror story” from childhood to adulthood, in the hope that it would help other children make positive decisions.

Explaining the program’s focus on education as a means of prevention, Bonnie Anglin, Youth Anti-Crime Trust chairwoman, said, “Too often, we adults expect children to have the knowledge and experience to make good decisions, without providing them with the information that they need to make those decisions. We need to invest in programs that build up and empower our kids, and not on prisons.”

She also noted that there appears to be a level of apathy from the country in addressing the growing increase in youth crime, as seen by the lack of consistent funding for this program. She feels it is important that the community recognizes that crime is not a “your child” problem. It is a national problem and needs national involvement and funding.

The group’s press release states that the Youth Anti-Crime Trust (Youth ACT) is a nonprofit association that was formed at the request of the government to implement a recommended strategy of the National Security Council of delivering “effective prevention and intervention programs to address the increase in antisocial behaviour and to address and reduce juvenile crime, in turn leading to a safer society for everyone in Cayman, now and in the future.”

Every year Youth ACT holds youth crime prevention days in Clifton Hunter and John Gray high schools, where Year 8 and Year 10 students learn about the importance of personal responsibility in ensuring positive outcomes for their lives. Youth ACT will deliver its final youth crime prevention day for 2016/2017 just before the end of the school year.

Youth ACT can be contacted at 916-5169, or on the group’s Facebook page.

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