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EDITORIAL: Full frontal assault needed in Brittons Hill


EDITORIAL: Full frontal assault needed in Brittons Hill

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THIS WEEK, Acting Commissioner of Police Tyrone Griffith and members of his high command will be visiting Brittons Hill. They will undertake what we have come to describe as a “walk-through”.

The top cop’s visit is no doubt linked to the recent upsurge in gun violence in the area, including the deaths of two young men with connections to the district.

We applaud the commissioner on the move since we are sure it will serve to reassure residents that they are not alone – that the long arm of the law will stay as close as circumstances and resources will allow in order to offer them the maximum protection possible.

But truth be told, we, as a country, are being unfair to the police and to the people, particularly the youth, of Brittons Hill. We have seen it over and over again. There is a flare-up of violence in a community and the police move in with a temporary post to combat the activity and reassure law-abiding residents.

We have seen it in New Orleans. We have seen it in Haynesville. We have seen it in The Pine. We have seen it in Chapman Lane. In fairness to the police, these always achieve some positive results, but it is still an unfair “imposition” on law enforcement personnel.

It is not hard to understand why the police move in when these spurts of violence occur, but it does not take a lot to figure out that violence is an end result and not a cause. Police will address enforcement and detection issues, but who will address the root? This, we believe, is critical because if the police are effective in Brittons Hill, there is a very real possibility those engaged in the activities at the root will simply shift their base of operation.

Where are the other social agencies that ought to be at work in communities such as Brittons Hill? It is not enough for those with ministerial responsibilities for portfolios such as education, small business, community development, sports, youth, social care, gender affairs and so on to be talking. While the police are there, the officers of the appropriate agencies should also be on the ground interacting with residents.

It is also time for those responsible for Home Affairs to get their act together and get the numbers in the police force back up to the levels that promote efficiency and allow the commissioner to once again have a vibrant community policing programme, with the resident beat officer being a permanent and reliable fixture.

Commissioner Griffith is doing the right thing this week with his walk-through and the increased patrols that will follow are appropriate, but they amount to a quick fix. Addressing the real problem is not a police issue and we need to deploy state resources with the correct mix of expertise to engage the youth on a number of levels.

Clearly, sports is a big thing in Brittons Hill, but it is also equally clear that quite often sporting venues and activities are at the heart of the tensions. Perhaps that’s where expertise should be deployed.

Brittons Hill also boasts the Valery and Bonnetts community facilities and perhaps there is a need for fresh initiatives and the deployment of additional resources at these locations to reach the youth.

The wider Brittons Hill community is also not short on churches. There are at least a dozen spread across various denominations, and while nationally we readily accept the concept of separation of church and state, it can’t be hard for some appropriate state agency to coordinate a comprehensive and long-term “church” response.

Leaving the police in a position where they are made to feel that addressing the situation in Brittons Hill is entirely theirs, or even primarily theirs, is short-sighted and begging for such criminal and antisocial conduct to become entrenched.

A sensible state-led approach is needed – and urgently too.