- Approximately 50 placard-bearing young people and adults from Steer Town and adjoining communities in St. Ann staged a march against drug abuse, gang violence and other social challenges affecting the once serene area of the garden parish.
- The march commenced at the Steer Town Square and proceeded through the seven districts of the community, namely Dam Head, Godsto, True Street, Holly Hood, Green Bay, Back Road and Gaza.
- There were short stops in each district square, where residents were addressed and given educational material and other handouts.
Approximately 50 placard-bearing young people and adults from Steer Town and adjoining communities in St. Ann staged a march against drug abuse, gang violence and other social challenges affecting the once serene area of the garden parish.
The march commenced at the Steer Town Square and proceeded through the seven districts of the community, namely Dam Head, Godsto, True Street, Holly Hood, Green Bay, Back Road and Gaza.
It was organised by the Ministry of National Security’s Citizen Security and Justice Programme (CSJP), and involved support from the National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA), Community Safety and Security Branch of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), Social Development Commission (SDC), Men with a Message, Steer Town Police Youth Club, Steer Town Benevolent Society, as well as churches and schools from the area.
The procession was held by police personnel and included a marching band. There were short stops in each district square, where residents were addressed and given educational material and other handouts.
“I love what I see the young people and these adults are doing today by marching through the community against violence, drug abuse and other things,” resident of Steer Town, Carol McIntosh, told JIS News.
He expressed the hope that the march will bring about much-needed changes and spread love, peace and unity throughout all communities in and around Steer Town.
“This is very nice and people must get together and unite. I believe that it is full time to stop all the foolishness that is going on within the area. As a community, we should be able to walk from one area to the next and everybody should be living as one people,” Mr. McIntosh expressed.
Regional Manager of the NCDA, Clifton Morris, told JIS News that the march was staged to bring unity and return community spirit to Steer Town and its environs, paving the way for the rebuilding of “broken down bridges of love and oneness.”
“We are operating out of a project called ‘Community Action for Prevention’ and this project actually brings community members together. We are therefore doing this march as a sensitisation so persons will begin to feel our presence here … we are, among other things, looking at the safety and health of the community for a better Jamaica,” Mr. Morris said.
NCDA’s Substance Abuse Officer for St. Ann, Nordia Henry, indicated that the march was prompted by an intervention carried out by the NCDA in Steer Town through funding from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which found problems of drug abuse, gang violence, and teenage pregnancy.
“Based on what we have found on the ground, we have become involved in this march, as we are seeking to get the young people of the community more involved and proactive in helping themselves … the message needs to go out that there must be a better way and we, the youth, must be engaged in discovering that way. Going forward … we are focusing on changing the face of the Steer Town community, which is being viewed as a volatile community,” Ms. Henry said.
CSJP’s Community Liaison Officer for Steer Town, Kadian Hutchinson, said she was pleased with the participation of the various groups, and expressed confidence that the march will have the desired impact.
“We are here today to prove to citizens and to say to the negative influences in this community that we need a change, and that’s why we marching. We intend to make a statement that we will no longer tolerate crime and violence, drug abuse, peer pressure, teenage pregnancy, illiteracy and other such ills that impact negatively on the Steer Town community,” she told JIS News.
Ms. Hutchinson informed that a project has been implemented to assist residents, particularly young men, to acquire literacy and numeracy, as well as a marketable skill.
The project, called ‘GYLTY: Get Your Life Together Youth,’ seeks to engage youngsters ages 17 to 24 years.
“In this programme, they will do six months literacy training … then move on to the vocational skills training aspect, hopefully placing them in gainful employment,” she informed.
Police Corporal Everton Fairweather, who is attached to the St. Ann Community Safety and Security Branch, told JIS News that the march was vital as the police alone could not successfully fight crime.
“We (the police) have been having some challenges in Steer Town. When this march was planned, we were happy because we believe that it would alleviate some of the crime and violence that is happening within this community,” he said.
He noted that the police are happy to be on board, because “our duty is to provide security and make sure that persons are safe within any community anywhere in Jamaica. We are therefore paying specific attention to this area because of the flare-up of violence from time to time.”