In an age when young people and the protective services appear to be contending forces, it is refreshing to hear of coalitions that bring at-risk youth and police officers together in a positive way.
Of the St James Police Youth Group, one youth said “it benefits me plenty because it has given me a fresh start.” The young chap no more than 15 years old had gotten in trouble with the Law and his release was predicated on him joining the club.
Another of his club members told THA Chief Secretary Orville London, as they paid a visit to the Calder Hall Administrative Complex on Tuesday (23rd August, 2011) that the Club provides activities ranging from the Arts and Sports to Computer Sciences and Woodwork to keep young people occupied. She said prior to becoming a club member she would get into trouble because she had nothing to do at home.
Noting that Tobago’s youth have access to a number of programmes aimed at their development, London told the group that the THA is about “empowering young people to live in a dynamic and challenging environment”.
He noted that the THA’s Department of Youth Affairs had posted “youth auxiliaries” in communities across the island”. These youth auxiliaries liaise with young people to find out their needs and concerns so that the Department can better serve them. They also provide technical support and training for existing youth groups and even assist in starting new ones.
London also said that Tobago itself can boast of its own outstanding police youth clubs. The Roxborough Youth Club has been a flagship group for the island. It has won several awards and commendations and has been privileged to meet high ranking officials from across the world, including the only black US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
London, who has always had an open door policy to young people, told the group that although the job can be stressful, “we do it for the young people”.
The St James Police Youth Club which has a membership of 164 is one of the largest of its kind in the country. It has played for special events, even playing for His Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall on their 2008, visit to Trinidad and Tobago.
Founder of the Club police officer Derrick Sharbodie said the club was started in 1992 so that police officers could establish a relationship with young people. At that time, he said, several young people were being held for crimes each day, between 12 noon and 4.00 p.m.