By Dr Neals J. Chitan
A new day dawned in January 2017 when a different approach to fighting crime was adopted and championed by St Kitts-Nevis’ ministry of national security and its determined and focused permanent secretary, Osmond Petty, and Prime Minister Dr Timothy Harris.
2016 had taken the homicidal plotting graph to a record-breaking level, registering 32 homicides that year in the twin-island nation. A different formula was desperately needed to sustainably break this antisocial spiral that was tarnishing the good repute of the “Sugar City” and threatening to negatively impact its growing and booming tourist industry.
It was at this point of need, our copyrighted “EDER Approach” — a four-dimensional approach to crime reduction was investigated and chosen by the ruling Team Unity government as the way forward to sustainably stop the social hemorrhaging that literally created blood flow on the streets of the Federation.
After a series of robust consultations with parents, teachers and law enforcers which represented three levels of enforcement — the “E” in EDER, we undertook the “D” which means diagnosis. There is a traditional approach to crime in the Caribbean where the heavy hand of law enforcement rips through communities and indiscriminately pounces on socially damaged men who fit the criminal profile.
The diagnosis aspect of the EDER is meant to blend a socially softer approach with that toughness of enforcement to take an intentional look at the roots causing crime and violence. And so, it was with this objective in mind we engaged our “Uprooting Crime and Violence Symposium” at the St Kitts Marriott Hotel, taking an in-depth look at 12 psychosocial roots of crime and violence and how we can kill those roots if we hope to break the persisting trend.
This symposium was very well attended and saw the participation and direct involvement of educators, law enforcers, mental health professionals, clergy, social science professionals, health professional and every conceivable interested stakeholder within the Federation. After my presentation of the 12 roots and their impact on a wide spectrum of criminal activity, these professionals were tasked with coming together within their special interest groups to identify the root most germane to their profession and design a short-term and long-term strategy that they can use to kill that root nationally.
It was within that working framework that an idea that would change the social direction of the Federation of St Kitts-Nevis was born. Following in the footsteps of most great change makers, Inspector Rosemarie Isles-Joseph of the St Christopher and Nevis Police Force was struck by inspiration and the idea of the St Kitts-Nevis Explorer Movement was born.
As a law enforcer who is closely connected to her community and had frequently used the softer side of inspiration and encouragement to deal with anti-social behaviour, she was herself inspired to start a community youth club that can bring children together and keep them involved in exciting character-building activities. So, injecting Permanent Secretary Petty with a dose of the same inspiration, they together sold the idea to a few of her police colleagues and the first Community Policing Team was formed to help undertake the explosion and expansion of what would become the Explorers Youth Club Movement in St Kitts and Nevis.
June 2017 saw its launch as over 70 children and teens between the ages of 4-19 from neighboring Molineaux and Phillips communities came together with parents and guardians for their first meeting. It was indeed the birth of Mol-Phil, the flagship club of the Explorer Movement leading the way to be followed by Chadwell club, St Peter’s club, St Paul’s club and the Cayon club, totalling over 400 children meeting on a weekly basis.
These children are all trained and encouraged to live by their pledge and motto which are meant to inscribe on their minds; discipline, good decisions, crime-free living, impulse control, helpfulness and being good citizens. As a paramilitary organization, along with these character-building activities, they enjoy competitive sports, drumming, dancing, hiking, cooking, sewing and drilling, and were participants in the 2017 and 2018 National Independence Celebration Parade.
On Friday November 23, 2018, during a promotional event in the sister island of Nevis, sixty uniformed Explorer Ambassadors along with their highly synchronized drum corps and Community Policing Team paraded through the streets of Charlestown the capital city to encourage and ignite the Explorer Movement in Nevis. Later, these excited and highly motivated Explorers ran through the streets and alleyways of gun ridden communities, knocking on doors and encouraging parents and children to get involved, leaving them with the high expectation of a soon coming Explorer Movement to Nevis also.
As the crime reduction consultant to the Federation, it was my pleasure to be part of the team, escorting them along with my admin assistant Mrs Ann Chitan, permanent secretary Osmond Petty, founder Inspector Rosemarie Isle-Joseph and her team; Sgt. Sampson, Constable Percival, Sgt. Henderson, Constable Hendrickson, Constable McSheene, Constable Thomas and Constable Daniels from Nevis.
Truly, amidst the blazing fiery infernos that are destroying homes, communities and forest across the globe, I am pleased to report that there is a blazing fire of inspiration, hope and positivity that is blazing across St Kitts-Nevis and which will hopefully spread across the Caribbean to reduce the growing anti-social behavior that’s breeding crime and violence.