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Sports against crime?

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Violent crime and its devastating and deadly effects continue to be a major area of concern in St Vincent and the Grenadines. This is especially so, given the heavy involvement of young people in these acts, and the implications this has for the future of our country, as both perpetrators and victims. Several initiatives have been launched, albeit inconsistently in some cases, to stem this tide, but generally these have not achieved the desired effect.{{more}}

Perhaps the most promising has been the PAN AGAINST CRIME programme. Launched amidst a great deal of scepticism and in a climate where pan was struggling to survive, this initiative has not only survived, but has produced results both in terms of involving people from primary to teenage levels in developing the unique musical enterprise, and also in mobilizing communities and spurring a revival of pan throughout the countryside and in the Grenadines as well.

This must be viewed in the context that pan is an expensive undertaking, requiring not only no small financial contributions, but a coordinated effort on the part of organizers, players, the community, private sector and Government to make it work. Many are the steel orchestras which have faltered along the road for lack of support in one or another of these categories. It is all the more worthwhile what has been achieved by the Pan Against Crime initiative, and we must commend the Government, the Police Force and the Youlou Pan Movement for their dedication to the cause.

Of course, this initiative alone cannot combat crime, but it is a worthwhile contributor to the effort. Other initiatives are needed at all levels. We take this opportunity therefore to suggest that a complementary effort be launched. What about a SPORTS AGAINST CRIME initiative?

Sports is a natural activity area for the young and brings with it many rewards, physically, mentally, socially and, in today’s world, financially as well. SVG has a proud sporting history, but in recent years for one reason or another, we have not been quite living up to our legacy at the national level. Areas of former sporting glory, such as football and netball have not been able to reach the heights of the past and in comparison with many of our neighbours we seem to be stuck, or on the decline. At the recent Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, SVG faded in comparison with athletes from Grenada and St Lucia to name a couple, and even a 40-year-old veteran from St Kitts, the venerable Kim Collins, must have made us all ask, what is wrong with us?

Aside from this level though, there is tremendous potential to harness our enthusiasm and employ it at the local, community and school level, in all fields of sport, and to use it as a deterrent and a weapon against crime. Sport is far easier to succeed in such an initiative than pan, though we will have to contend with the egos of some administrators, coaches and commentators. It will also require a focused and targeted approach, combining the support and active participation of the National Lotteries Authority, the sporting associations, the Ministry of Education, sporting clubs, communities and the Government of SVG. The blessing and support of the religious organizations, some of which are already active in sports, would also be a necessity.

Out of it can emerge, not a willy-nilly short-term programme, but a well-thought out and coordinated strategic programme, aimed at strengthening sport at the community level, ensuring accountable and lasting club structures and not just using lottery funds to finance participation of national teams in competitions, but in building our sporting base, encouraging our youths to be active in sports and leaving less time for crime and drugs.

Is there any harm in trying this?

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