Authorities are shocked at the number of young children involved in acts of crime. The City of Cape Town’s Ghost Squad was involved in two incidents in recent weeks that resulted in the arrest of seven children, aged between 11 and 16. Mayoral committee for Safety and security, Alderman JP Smith, said they are seeing a worrying prevalence in the city, of young people of school going age committing crimes and engaging in criminal activities.
“That indicates a severe lack of judgement as well as a severe lack of moral fibre and also indicates a group of young people who are emerging who have absolutely no respect for the law, themselves or others and are showing errors of judgment involving their and other people’s safety,” said Smith.
Seven children between the ages of 11 and 16 were arrested on charges of rape and attempted murder and in another incident, a 16 year old was arrested on charges of attempted murder and reckless and negligent driving during an illegal street racing operation in Athlone.
Smith said Metro police has noted and acknowledged that they have a serious problem on their hands.
“We have from our side made sure that there is enforcement and the policing stuff that we have to do however in an addition to that recognised that we need to develop partnerships with young people,” said Smith.
Much outreach work has been done at schools and in many communities across the city making youngsters aware of the issues of drugs, gangs, violence and teenage pregnancies as well as responsible decision making.
As part of its Social Crime Prevention strategy, the Safety and Security Directorate has introduced a number of programmes focusing on youth at risk The directorate also recently launched its Youth Cadet Programme, selecting learners from Hanover Park, Nyanga, Manenberg, Bonteheuwel, Elsies River, Strandfontein, Gugulethu, Lansdowne, Kraaifontein and Mitchells Plain, who excelled at the Youth Camps.
The programme aims to develop the members to become active community leaders by instilling a sense of social responsibility in them and respect for law and order so that they can help build a safer city, in partnership with the Metro Police Department.
“The City is investing millions of rand in developing young people through social crime prevention initiatives and other skills development projects. There is also a range of programmes in place, in partnership with other spheres of government, to keep children occupied in a constructive manner over the school holidays which are just around the corner. We are picking up the slack for those parents who simply refuse to take responsibility for their children’s upbringing.
“Government takes a lot of flak for what it doesn’t do, but it is time to shine the spotlight on those parents who need to be more accountable. Money can fix many things, but it cannot teach respect for self and others, nor can it teach the difference between right and wrong. That needs to start in the home,” said Smith. VOC (Imogen Vollenhoven)