Increasing the number of probation and truancy officers, commencing a national public relations programme and developing appropriate legislation were items among the several recommendations made by education and national security experts to address the alarming increase violence among youth.
The recommendations from the Ministry of Social Transformation were submitted to cabinet this week as stakeholders work towards making the streets and schools safer for the nation’s young people.
Other recommendations advanced in the report included increased monitoring for substance abuse among students, strengthening community groups and providing training for employees and volunteers in schools, churches, public health services and criminal justice agencies.
The necessity of providing support for children who fall into conflict with the law in facilities such as the Boys Training School, was also underscored.
While many of the recommendations were welcomed, Information Minister Melford Nicholas admitted that in some instances existing legislation may need to be amended, or new legislation introduced to ensure the plans can be unfolded in accordance with the law.
If this is required, it is unlikely to occur until the new year, as the last parliamentary session of the year was held on Thursday.
It is unlikely that the parliament will convene again to debate new matters until after general elections which are constitutionally due by March 2023.
Nevertheless, Minister Nicholas gave the assurance that the cabinet will do all in its power to ensure the safety of youngsters.
According to the latest Cabinet Notes, consultations will be held with a former Antigua and Barbuda Defence Force (ABDF) soldier who has consistently run a boys training programme that has transformed the lives of boys who were going astray.
Meanwhile, increased police patrols around hotspots where young people congregate, like the YMCA and Redcliffe Quay, and educational campaigns within schools were among the plans agreed upon by educational officials and law enforcement personnel on Wednesday following a four-hour meeting.
These plans will go into immediate effect.
Several videos have gone viral showing youths from at least two gangs attacking other young people with cutlasses.
Some of the victims have been left nursing serious injuries.
These incidents have been the focus of justified public outrage and the police and government have been called upon to act to prevent more of these heinous cromes being committed.
Parents are also being urged to take more responsibility for their children and to provide better guidance for them as a means of reducing the likelihood of these violent attacks.