By Dr Neals J. Chitan
Amidst the unprecedented historic homicidal spate of gun violence that erupted and took the lives of 13 in the southern town of Vieux Fort, Saint Lucia, 400 individuals were experiencing new life and social change in another history-making event happening simultaneously.
Our internationally acclaimed behavior modification and crime reduction program “Project STOP ‘n’ THINK” was packing hurricane-strength winds of change across six high schools, six communities and two correctional facilities, culminating in a spectacular community graduation of 400, on April 22, 2023, in Dennery, just a couple miles north of the homicidal-stricken town of Vieux Fort.
After my 20-plus years of crime reduction consultation internationally, it has become crystal clear to me and becoming clearer to many law-enforcement agencies that a new method of crime fighting must be engaged if we hope to win the war.
For the past 25 years, our Toronto-based Social Skill Agency, Motiv-8 For Change International has been consistently focused on medicating the roots of the criminal behavior we see in individuals, families, communities and nations, and has seen immense change and impact. (see “Testimonial Page” of www.motiv-8.org)
The heavy-handed enforcement-only approach will not win this war on crime and violence in our region, and as a behavior modification and crime reduction specialist, to serve the region more impactful and sustainably, I am glad to announce that I have opened a fully functional satellite office in St George’s Grenada to respond and help the Caribbean win the war on crime and violence by medicating the roots.
Recently, in the Regional Security Service’s (RSS), 40th Anniversary meeting hosted by prime minister Dickon Mitchell in St George’s Grenada, executive director of RSS, Captain Errington Shurland in his address, urgently expressed the dire need for a marriage of “Hard and Soft” approaches to fighting crime and violence in the RSS member states.
Although prime minister Dickon Mitchell, chairman of RSS, stressed the need for greater and more diligent border control against dangerous weapons in an attempt to reduce the availability of guns on the streets of our islands, Captain Shurland sounded the clarion call for the integration of “Hard and Soft” responses through a whole society approach. Oh man!! Someone finally believes what “Project STOP ‘n’ THINK” has been doing for the past 20 years!
Listen to the Captain! “Soft, through constant positive messaging to our young people with the aid of social development programs that consistently target troubled youth and programs that address issues related to recidivism,” captain Shurland stated!!
And so, as I measure our “Project STOP ‘n’ THINK” Community Empowerment and Crime Reduction Program with what the good captain was prescribing, it is with much confidence and pride I declare that “We have what the doctor ordered,” when it comes to crime reduction in the region!
No wonder, “Project STOP ‘n’ THINK-St. Lucia 2023,” made such an impact on our 400 graduates. To get the maximum impact and concept sustainability, we delivered our Three-Dimensional approach, engaging students of six high schools as prevention, youth/adults of six communities as intervention and residents and inmates of youth and adult correctional facilities as rehabilitation. With our unique laser-focused and high-energy sessions we targeted the emotional pain, trauma and adverse experiences that feed criminal responses, captivating the attention, and drawing even the most resistant youth into the circle of change.
Seeing the attendance soar as participants share the impact of these concepts on them and their change experiences with friends, siblings or neighbours was exhilarating and added even more passion, excitement and empowerment to the communities, something that creates a unique bond among “Project STOP ‘n’ THINK” participants/graduates. That bond has the power to smash rivalry and forge new or revived friendships among stoppers and thinkers across communities, as was quite evident on April 22, 2023, as graduates stood together and took their Personal Respect Pledge before receiving their “Project STOP ‘n’ THINK” Canadian Social Skill Certificate.
Congratulations and thanks are therefore in order to Dr Caius Alfred and the line of stakeholders and sponsors who worked with our team to deliver “Project STOP ‘n’ THINK-St Lucia 2023.” I further look forward to implementing the requested proposal of a full rollout of this program in 15 other proposed schools and communities across Saint Lucia in 2023-2024.
Finally, let me say how much I admire the vision of minister Phillip Telesford, minister of social development in the government of Grenada who has seen the impact and methodology of our crime reduction approach and has scheduled a meeting with me for Tuesday, April 09, 2023, for an in-depth discussion on implementation in the Spice Isle. This too can be a historic moment in the government’s transformation agenda in Grenada, as we partner to medicate the roots and win the war on crime and violence in the Caribbean.