An outbreak of a deadly virus must be fought on two equally important fronts: Treating those who have been infected and preventing the spread of pathogens to healthy people.
Similarly, a two-pronged approach is necessary to fight the outbreak of criminal activity threatening our community: 1) Strong policing followed by swift execution of justice, and 2) Long-term, sustained efforts to inoculate Cayman’s vulnerable youth (against negative and unhealthy influences).
As police continue enhanced efforts to apprehend the thugs and thieves who prey on innocent victims, government must take steps to prevent Cayman’s future generations from choosing lives of criminality. They should have no shortage of ideas – after all, as youth worker Michael Myles told the Compass this week, nearly a dozen reports on crime and its causes have been commissioned by government since 2001. Time enough for a generation to come of age without the benefit of focused and meaningful effort to interrupt the cycle of antisocial behavior and crime.
As Mr. Myles, who has worked with Cayman’s at-risk and delinquent youths for decades, told the Compass: “There is only so much we can do for the people who are already out there robbing gas stations and shooting up houses. There is a lot we can do for the next generation to prevent them going down the same path. We have been given a road map; we need someone to get on with it.”
It’s no secret that government loves to commission studies and reports, but even the best report is close to worthless unless it is cause for action. Many of the reports regarding this matter offered similar recommendations for treating the root causes of crime – including poor parenting, lack of education, teen pregnancy and unemployment – but few of those recommendations have been implemented.
Two years ago, Mr. Myles compiled a list of key recommendations from this mountain of reports. They included implementing youth diversion and early interventions, school-based mental health services and transitional housing, a community parenting program and information sharing between police, social services and educators. His 2015 memo, too, was allowed to languish. Since then, Mr. Myles has begun working with private partners to act on some recommendations in his current role with Hope Academy and the nonprofit Youth Anti-Crime Trust.
Mr. Myles is doing more than his part; we must do ours.
We talk about second chances for adults who have been convicted of crimes, but what of Cayman’s children who had no real first chance to become productive members of society? Pride and pro-social values are best instilled in the young and, presumably, more malleable. If parents neglect their duties, the task unfortunately devolves to the schools – controlled environments which should model our highest societal ideals.
All students, we would add, need and deserve teachers and role models in their lives who are inspirational, aspirational and demanding of high performance.
Schools themselves, often times aided and abetted by the education “establishment,” are guilty of exhibiting “the soft bigotry of low expectations.” Without high expectations, schools not only fail to teach academics, they succeed in teaching a dangerous lesson about student worth, student capacity for prodigious learning, and, ultimately, student potential to take their rightful elevated place in their own society.
The development of a criminal mindset does not form in an instant or single incident. Likewise, social and behavioral amelioration is a years-long process, not even remotely related to perishable 140 character “tweets” or even quadrennial electoral cycles.
We have a lifetime of work ahead of us. We’d better get on with it …