St. John Youngsters Learn How To Implement Youth Crime Watch Program

Dr. James Corbett teaches youngsters at the John’s Folly Learning Institute about setting up a Youth Crime Watch program.

Approximately 18 youngsters from across the island gave up their Saturday to take part in the first Youth Crime Watch implementation and youth leadership development training meeting on Feb. 11, at the John’s Folly Learning Institute.

The first Youth Crime Watch of America was started in Miami in the early 1980s, after a 12-year-old girl was raped. Since then, chapters of the youth-led organization have sprung up across the U.S. and internationally.

Now one of the leading youth organizations in the world, Youth Crime Watch aims to empower the youth to prevent drugs, crime and violence in their communities.

Special Connection
The day-long seminar at the John’s Folly Learning Institute was led by facilitator Dr. James Corbett, who has led training classes from Brazil to Los Angeles. He also has a special connection to St. John.

“I was recruited by the V.I. Department of Education in 1962, to come and teach in the territory,” said Corbett. “I thought that I was going to teach in St. Thomas, but St. John needed an elementary school teacher. When I finally got out here, Mr. Guy Benjamin was my first supervisor, and he has been my mentor since 1962.”

Revered Coral Bay resident, and namesake of the community’s elementary school, Benjamin told the youth present that what they are starting will affect the whole world.

Change the World
“If we can start something here on little St. John, it is so important,” said Benjamin. “Learn to appreciate what the community went through to get you to this point. You are doing this for yourselves, your parents, your community and the world.”

Corbett, who taught in the V.I. for a second stint in 1985 and has regularly visited over the years, said that he has seen the territory undergo a dramatic change.

“When I come back to visit, I pick up the newspapers and read how young people are getting involved in crime, drugs and violence,” said Corbett. “There are even young kids getting in-volved in murder and rape. When I was here in the past, none of that was happening.”

In Jamaica every neighborhood has gangs, which are led by teenagers, Corbett explained.

Youth Most Affected
“It got started there, just like it is starting here in St. John,” he said. “We’ve already had a number of events this year. The group most affected by crime, drugs and violence are young people.”

Often young people don’t report crimes because they are told that it is not their business, or they don’t trust adults, explained Corbett.

“Youth Crime Watch says that crime, drugs and violence are your business,” he told the youngsters. “You won’t have effective schools unless you become involved in preventing, reducing and eliminating crime, drugs and violence. I am more committed to this community than any other community because this community means a lot to me.”

Corbett separated the youngsters into six groups of three. The six groups will eventually recruit more members and form ‘core’ groups, said Corbett.

Crime Prevention Strategies
“The core groups will work together to plan crime prevention strategies for their community and school,” he said. “The Youth Crime Watch program helps you identify your strong points. Each person here has strengths, and when you put those skills together, you can do almost anything.”

Youth Crime Watch is based on youth-led principles.

“We can not tell you what to do,” said Corbett. “We can assist you in empowering yourself. You already have all the answers, and you will reach your own conclusions.”

The crime triangle, consisting of a victim, an offender and the opportunity to commit a crime, is one crime prevention strategy proposed by Youth Crime Watch, Corbett explained.

“If you can change any one of the sides of the triangle,” he said, “to make someone less likely to be a victim, to make someone less likely to be the offender, to make the environment one in which it is more difficult to commit a crime—that is prevention.”

Each group of three youngsters was charged with the task of recruiting three new members and developing a list of the most important problems in their community.

Youth Make a Difference
Young St. Johnians came out to the Youth Crime Watch training for a number of reasons, although they all desire to make a difference in their community.

“I want to protect myself and my community,” said Alexa Richards.

“I want to learn how to help the community, because drugs and violence are bad,” said LeRon Jackson.

“When I grow up, I won’t do drugs and I don’t want any of my friends doing drugs either,” said Nicole Dalmida.