The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is moving forward with plans to implement social intervention programs in a number of Member States that are aimed at reducing gang violence.

Phase Two of the CARICOM Secretariat’s Social Development and Crime Prevention Action Plan has been introduced to Belize and Guyana, and is slated for St. Kitts-Nevis, and Trinidad and Tobago.

In Belize, leaders of 10 of the country’s most notorious gangs, including factions of Crips and Bloods, meet regularly with the Belize Truce Committee to fine-tune a draft 15-point peace protocol to which they will ‘ink’ their signature of commitment in the near future. According to CARICOM, the gangs have agreed in principle to the peace protocol and have called a ‘halt’ to gang violence in that country, agreeing to “use every non-violent measure to resolve all past, present or future conflicts that may arise between them” as they continue dialogue with key stakeholders in implementing viable social initiatives to promote community development.

The government-supported initiative is a non-violent means of using dialogue and social interventions to transforming gangs into a positive community building tool and re-integrating gang members as productive contributing citizens into their communities. To date, 90% of gangs in Belize have bought into the initiative.

The noticeable reduction in the murder and crime rate since this initiative, confirmed by the Commissioner of Police Crispin Jefferies, testifies to its potential to transform the mindset of gangs and the culture of gang violence in Belize. It is thus establishing a benchmark for other Member States plagued by similar problems of gang-related violence.

The Action Plan implemented in Belize has been initiated with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and focuses on consultations aimed at gang prevention, youth and community development projects; and identifying pilot communities and mechanisms for the implementation of Phase II of the project in local communities.

Regional news reports confirm that high rates of crime and violence in the Caribbean are undermining growth, threatening human welfare, and impeding social development. According to a recent World Bank Report on Crime and Violence in the Caribbean, “Deaths and injuries from youth violence constitute a major threat to public health and social and economic progress across the Caribbean. Youth are disproportionately represented in the ranks of both victims and perpetrators of crime and violence.”

Despite the best efforts of the judicial systems in respective Member States, along with effective policing, punitive measures have not spawned a significant dent in the escalating crime rate.

While not a panacea, the CARICOM Secretariat feels that the Action Plan presents a complementary and more sustainable response for reducing violence, fostering social inclusion, promoting integration, empowering victims and protecting the environment and economic resources.

Kitts- Nevis Observer