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Contrite youth says he is ‘done with stealing bicycles’

Contrite youth says he is ‘done with stealing bicycles’

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At age 16, Garth “Cocoa Tea” Baptiste has gone before the criminal courts on more than one occasion. He has a criminal record and has spent time in prison. But yesterday, Baptiste promised to change his ways and walk the straight and narrow path.{{more}}

The O’ Brien’s Valley resident, who had gone before Magistrate Rickie Burnett on three separate occasions for stealing bicycles, was yesterday, at the Georgetown Magistrate’s Court presented with a brand new bicycle from the Sailors Cycle Centre after the magistrate had promised to get him one.

“I done with stealing bicycles,” Baptiste told SEARCHLIGHT, as he waited anxiously for his bicycle to arrive.

On the first occasion, Baptiste was sentenced to two months imprisonment and on the second, he was placed on community service at the Georgetown Police Station.

When he appeared in court again for a third time before Burnett in February 10, the boy was charged with stealing a bicycle, which had been in custody at the Georgetown Police Station, while he was serving his community service sentence there.

He was placed on a bond.

When asked what led to him to constantly steal bicycles, Garth simply said “I could not afford any,” stating that he is the third of nine children living with both parents.

“When me been small, I always believe I could ride and go all about,” he stated.

Stating that he has never personally owned a bicycle, Garth admitted to going around and stealing bicycles just so that he could ride around.

“Me just love fo ride. That is what I like to do,” he boldly stated.

About two minutes into the interview when Trevor “Sailor” Bailey of Sailors Cycle Centre pulled into the parking lot of the Georgetown Magistrate’s Court, in a pick- up truck with the brand new bicycle in the back, Baptiste’s concentration broke from the interview, as his eyes lit up when he saw his gift.

The soft-spoken teen said he has seen enough of jail and does not want to go back there.

“I feel really good getting this. I am not taking anymore bikes. I have one for myself now. My mummy and daddy speak to me already,” stated Baptiste, who says he wants to become a mechanic or a professional bicycle rider in the future.

The former Georgetown Secondary School student, who said he was expelled from the institution because he “followed bad company”, said when he does not have a bicycle, he would be at home thinking about one.

He explained that in relation to two of the bicycles he stole, he was employed with the owners, but was afraid to ask them for the bicycle, which he said he took and fixed himself.

“I used to carry blocks for them. And they had the bike in a pen. Them been even say if I been come ask them I could ah get it… I think I shoulda do that, but I been feel a little ‘fraid that they would have said no,” Baptiste added.

Garth, whose eyes welled up with tears, said he feels bad when persons in his area poke fun at him and constantly call him a thief.

“I know I do wrong, but I does feel ah kinda way when them trouble me. Them calling me “biker” all thing and me na name so. I done with them things. I realise that them things does send you to jail for stupidness,” he stated.

As he was being presented with his bicycle, many persons pulled out their phones to photograph Garth being presented with his bicycle.

However, Baptiste was seen wiping tears from his eyes, and broke a smile from time to time when persons shouted words of encouragement to him and told him to ride his bicycle, but he stated that his jeans were too tight to get onto the seat.

In court, Magistrate Burnett said it was the third time Baptiste had come before his court for stealing a bicycle.

Burnett said he was upset with the young lad and stated that Baptiste was sent to prison.

“Even after doing that sentence, he came back before me this year for stealing a bicycle again… I came to the realization that this guy has a problem,” Burnett said.

He added that Baptiste indicated to him that he would like to have a bicycle and decided that he would honour his wish.

“When I asked Inspector Glasgow to call Sailors Cycle Centre about one of the bikes, he (Glasgow) said to me that the management was willing to donate the bike to him,” Burnett disclosed.

Speaking to Baptiste, Burnett said “What we are doing for you is that we are trying to help you. We don’t want you to commit crime. You seem to want a bike and we got a bike for you…”

He beseeched the youngster to take care of the bicycle and stay out of trouble.

“Some of the young men have been failing us, but we have to try our best to help them. This morning, we are trying to help you… Do not come back into this court room charged with any crime. Do not commit crime at all. If you come back in my courtroom I will be very unhappy,” the magistrate stated.

Following the presentation Bailey said when he heard the magistrate was going to purchase the bicycle for Baptiste, he said he could not let the magistrate do that, and he decided to donate one.

“Prison is not the answer to our problems. Sports is the answer. Who knows, down the road he could become a great cyclist,” Bailey said.

Bailey recalled that in 1984, when there were Nine Mornings cycling races, he received a letter from a young man who went to prison frequently.

“He wrote to me from the prisons stating that I was the one why he is in prison… He said I didn’t have enough cycle races to keep him out of prison… I just believe sports is the answer to our problems. I admire Magistrate Burnett for doing this,” he added.

Bailey made a promise to monitor the teen from now on and keep abreast of his progress.

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