Citizen Security and Justice Programme Impacting Inner-City Communities

Since the inception of the Citizen Security and Justice Programme (CSJP) in 2001, much has been achieved in the 15 inner-city communities across Kingston that are currently participating under the Community Action component of the CSJP.
Community Action Programme Co-ordinator, Orville Simmonds tells JIS News that the programme, which is spearheaded by the Ministry of National Security, is aimed at improving the lives of residents and help in the thrust to stem the rise in crime.
He informs that the Community Action component entails two broad areas, namely improvement to certain aspects of community infrastructure and the delivery of violence prevention services through non-governmental organisations (NGOs). He adds that the community aspect also focuses on supporting and strengthening community-based organisations.
“With respect to the infrastructure side of the programme, we undertake repairs, refurbishment and renovation work on small infrastructure within the community. For example, we have constructed multi-purpose ball courts, fenced schools, rehabilitated parks – small infrastructure work that would somehow assist in upgrading the image of the community, whilst at the same time provide access to recreational or security services in the community,” explains Mr.
“When a ball court is constructed in a particular community, you will find that youngsters in that community will take up sporting activities; otherwise they would have been sitting on the corner just hanging out and the possibility of being involved in activities that might be antisocial,” he adds. The Co-ordinator says that fencing a school helps with the security of the school, and providing educational services help improve the academic status of persons, thereby allowing them to be in a position to get better jobs.
“So, the whole array of services is geared at providing residents with opportunities to improve their lives, thus preventing them from getting involved in crime or anti-social activities,” Mr. Simmonds tells JIS News.
He says that the community action component of the CSJP, in essence, aims to “improve the human resource base in these communities, either through educational programmes, or through programmes aimed at improving their values and attitudes, and programmes aimed at re-socialising them into ways of living that will not involve violence and crime.”
The Co-ordinator points out that there are several NGOs that provide a range of services, such as the Kingston Restoration Company, which provides educational services through home work assistance, remedial education and also CXC classes in Mathematics and English.
“The Disputes Resolution Foundation is providing conflict resolution and mediation services; Youth Opportunity Unlimited is providing mentoring, adolescence life skills and other programmes targeting adolescence,” adds Mr. Simmonds.
He also informs that some of the NGOs provide parenting education for adults in the communities as well as sponsor summer camps and field trips.
“The whole idea behind these services is to provide access to positive activities and at the same time improve the capacity of residents of the communities, either in terms of education or in terms of life skills,” Mr. Simmonds explains.
The communities involved in the programme include Waterhouse, Tower Hill, Drewsland, Denham Town, Trench Town, Hannah Town, Fletchers Land, August Town, Parade Gardens, Rockfort, Mountain View, Kencot, Cassia Park, Allman Town and Mountain View.
“It is recognised that for the problem of crime and violence to be addressed adequately at the community level, interventions must be made. It is really an approach to national development, where the community is given a central role in decisions that impact on the community,” Mr. Simmonds tells JIS News.
“If one were to go by the statistics, several violent related activities are taking place in the inner city, in marginalised communities, and to address the issue of crime and violence, one really has to go to this segment of the society where there is unemployment, anti-social behaviour, lack of opportunities and lack of public infrastructure. So, this aspect of the CSJP is a central one and is critical to addressing the issue of crime and violence,” he stresses. The community aspect of the CSJP has been able to make a difference in the fight against crime and violence within the communities in which they operate. A big success is the home work assistance programme.
“We have had home work and remedial classes for the youngsters and most of them have improved their performances in school,” Mr. Simmonds notes.
“The level of literacy is a major problem and when we started out with this programme we found out that our services were not adequately taken up because of this inadequate level. We are happy to say that in most instances the academic performance of the participants has improved, owing to the services we have provided,” he says.
He points out that persons have also been trained in conflict resolution, and the parenting programmes have also assisted to improve family life.
“I recall the testimony of one family, where their whole family life has improved significantly due to the fact that the mother participated in some parenting education sessions and started to treat her adolescent daughter in a different way. That really made a turn around in the daughter’s life, because of the changed attitude and behaviour of her mother,” he adds.
Mr. Simmonds emphasises that the infrastructural projects have helped significantly, noting that a community centre in Tower Hill now serves as a venue for HEART Trust/NTA to provide vocational training and other forms of training for community residents. The CSJP has been successful in creating a partnership with the HEART Trust/NTA Garmex Academy and this has resulted in the training of over 200 persons in a number of areas, including Early Childhood Education, Customer Service and Data Entry Operations.
For example, a group of 15 persons from the community of Arnett Gardens have completed Level One certification in the HEART Trust/NTA Early Childhood Programme. This is a real success story as the individuals were not qualified to be part of the regular HEART programme and had to undertake preparatory training.
In its initial stages, Mr. Simmonds notes that the CSJP had to face frustration, disappointment and cynicism from the communities participating in the programme.
“Initially, these persons did not take up the services, people were pessimistic and used to say it’s just another government talk. But after seeing the commitment of the programme to stay in the communities, persons have become increasingly interested in the programme and want to be a part of it and want to be empowered,” he tells JIS News.
“The prospects for hope that now exist in some communities or in sections of some communities, I think, have been one of the great achievements of the programme. Because where there is hope lives can be changed,” Mr. Simmonds adds.
He notes that three police stations (Cross Roads, Kingston Central, and Denham Town) have benefited from renovation works under the programme, thereby allowing officers and citizens to operate in a more convenient and friendly environment.
“The idea is to allow customers, that is, the public to come in and to relate to the police in a customer friendly environment. Therefore, provisions have been made to have privacy and when an individual comes into the station to make a complaint or otherwise, that person can be taken into a room and not be there at the front in open discussions with the officer,” the Co-ordinator explains.
“This is part of a wider programme of the Ministry of National Security that started some time back, where the reception areas of other stations were rehabilitated and retrofitted in such a manner that would allow for a more customer friendly environment,” he says.
Mr. Simmonds points out that the Ministry has supported these interventions in recognition that the police alone cannot solve the matter of crime and violence in Jamaica. “We are happy to say that the communities have been very, very supportive of the programme. We are strictly non-partisan and that has been one of the things that have allowed us to be so strongly supported by the communities and we are now thinking of going into other communities,” he says.

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