Keith Scotland, a member of the Joint Select Committee on National Security, during yesterday’s meeting.

Reculturising parents on how they speak and interact with children, strengthening Community Police and providing mentorship and empowerment to young people are needed to assist in preventing youths from gravitating to gangs.

The recommendations came yesterday from officials of the Eye on Dependency and Vision on Mission agencies when they appeared before Parliament’s Joint Select Committee on National Security.

The JSC, chaired by the People’s National Movement’s Fitzgerald Hinds, met to complete discussions with the groups on ways to prevent organised crime and gangs from attracting youths.

JSC member Keith Scotland noted that gangs have become very sophisticated now.

“There is even something called a Zesser Drug now,” he noted.

JSC member Nigel de Freitas also said that some may find themselves in the darkness and the only light seen to emanate may be from gangs.

Eye on Dependency (EOD) director Garth St Clair called for strengthening of the Community Police unit, since he said the most police that people in some areas might see is Tactical officers and the Community Police were needed to deal with domestic community issues – which could head off crime happening – more than officers “dressed to kill.” However, he said community police often didn’t even have sufficient vehicles to reach issues. He added that having more safety officers in schools would also make a big difference

St Clair also called for attention to be paid to youths who may have low self-esteem. He said some may be going to school hungry in the morning, or coming from environments where parents are fighting and may be compared to one of the errant parents.

He noted the students may be the target of misdirected anger by a parent.

“So there must be a reculturalisation of parents in how they speak to children and interact with them,” St Clair said.

He also recommended daycare centres at some places which offered programmes. He said some women in a Beetham programme had to drop out since the stipend they received wasn’t enough to cover daycare costs for their babies.

EOD secretary Natasha Nunez called for Parent Teachers’ Association (PTAs) meetings to be mandatory for primary and secondary schools, since she noted issues in both sectors – parents and teachers.

VOA chairman Gerard Wilson said the “softer skills” of psychologists are being lost and this should be used to keep in touch with how youths at primary and secondary schools feel. He said youths may see gang leaders moving around in nice cars, clothes and with nice-looking women and gravitate to gang lifestyle because of wanting this also. He said there must be attention in the school system to what is attracting young people to gangs.

VOA CEO Giselle Chance recommended a holistic approach of energies from early childhood and other schools with national youth organisations to provide programme for youths, as they often try to emulate gang leaders’ identities. Chance said mentorship, empowerment and entrepreneurship is needed for youths not just handouts

Both agencies said they’d also engaged the judiciary. But St Clair said where the drug treatment court was concerned, he’d heard most judges didn’t support this court. Wilson said the restorative justice aspect is also important from the sentencing stage up.