Trinidad & Tobago

Ryan Assing and the Potential of Preventing Social Crime

Ryan Assing, the young Trinidadian who was featured in our documentary on social crime prevention, is still fighting for justice and helping to prevent crime. While he was a participant in the program, Ryan and his fellow students took part in mock trials and after-school activities.

"The experience was very nice," he said. "People saw the documentary and actually know about the RAPP program now."

Despite a population of just 1.3 million, the nation of Trinidad and Tobago has more than 100 gangs. It also has the tenth highest murder rate in the world, according to the United Nations. PADF is partnering with the U.S. State Department Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) to implement the Resistance and Prevention Program (RAPP), a crime prevention initiative that involves collaboration with law enforcement agencies, government institutions and community groups in Trinidad, the Bahamas and Suriname.

Ryan has finished school, and he's working at a tool store and service center. He's not formally involved in the RAPP program anymore, but the program has left its impact on Ryan and his friends.

"We learned what the justice system is all about," says Ryan, whose brother is still fighting legal battles from behind bars. "We gained knowledge about how the court system is run and how to deal with the crime."

Ryan Assing, his family and RAPP facilitators tell about the RAPP experience and crime in Trinidad & Tobago.

The RAPP program was designed to identify lasting solutions to citizen security in the Caribbean by building trust between police and citizens. Ryan took part in mock trials that showed young people how the court system works. He was also a leader among his peers and classmates. He believes that social crime prevention should have an integral place in Trinidadian society.

"Yes, it can lessen crime," said Ryan. "We need more programs in the community, more dialogue with the youth, more social activities going on. All that could break down crime."

Ryan is still pursuing a career in community organization. He's currently hoping to strengthen his community by working with other organizations that bridge the gap between citizens and politicians.

"The documentary was about me," explained Ryan, "but many people gained from it."  He hopes to continue to be a part of the positive change in Trinidad and the Caribbean.

Conference on Crime Prevention in the Caribbean

Paramaribo, Suriname (June 13, 2017) – The Pan American Development Foundation (PADF) will host a regional crime prevention conference in Paramaribo, Suriname. The event will bring together stakeholders from several Caribbean countries to exchange best practices, tools and discuss challenges in addressing crime and violence.

Since 2013, PADF has been implementing a regional program that uses a community-based approach to reduce crime and violence among at-risk youth in the Caribbean. Funded by the U.S. State Department Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, the Resistance and Prevention Program (RAPP) encourages collaboration between law enforcement agencies, government institutions and community groups in Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and the Bahamas.

“Our crime prevention activities have touched thousands of lives in the Caribbean,” says Roberto Obando, PADF Program Director. “This conference is a unique opportunity to bring together participants from around the region to talk about what’s working and what can be improved. Only by working together can we address the root causes of crime.”

To date, the RAPP program has reached more than 8,000 people through crime prevention and community policing programs. The program’s main objective is to build mutual trust between police and law enforcement so that communities can work hand in hand with officials to prevent crime.

Representatives from Trinidad, the Bahamas and Suriname are expected to attend the conference, including senior police officers, lawyers, magistrates, citizen security experts and staff from government ministries including education, national security and urban renewal. 

“We are encouraged by the amount of collaboration and community engagement around reducing crime in the Caribbean,” says Julisara Mathew, Economic Officer of the U.S. Embassy. “The goal is to build on the work that has been done with the RAPP program and continue the dialogue about finding long-term solutions to address crime and violence.”

The event will begin at 9:00 a.m. on June 13, 2017 at the Courtyard Marriott Hotel in Paramaribo, and will include remarks by representatives from the U.S. Embassy and the Government of Suriname. Some of the speakers are: Jody Witt from the University of Colorado, Andrew Stroude, former Magistrate of Trinidad & Tobago; Catherine DeLaura and Molly Hamm from the Dream Project in the Dominican Republic;  Courtney Brown, from the USAID-funded crime prevention program in Guyana; Hans De Greve from Suriname, and many other scholars and practitioners in the field of citizen security and justice.

The two-day workshop will include discussions on juvenile justice reform, inter-agency collaboration, community engagement to conduct crime prevention activities, school-based crime interventions, youth positive development programs, evidence-based practices to reduce crime and more.

PADF works as a strong advocate for positive youth development throughout the region. Our initiatives focus on employment generation, leadership training, crime and violence prevention and civic participation.

About PADF

The Pan American Development Foundation (PADF) is an affiliate of the Organization of American States. It was established in 1962 to implement projects that benefit vulnerable and excluded people in Latin America and the Caribbean through the development of public-private partnerships and promotion of corporate social investing. In 2016, the foundation mobilized $95 million, reaching more than 8 million people in 18 countries. www.padf.org

Documentary Follows Youth in Trinidad

"East Port of Spain isa country within a country," says Inspector Elvin Reid. "It is just different."

The city's main problem is homicides, says Reid, a member of the Inter Agency Task Force, a division of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service.

"Most of our homicides are gang related. We have two active gangs in our area of operation. And all this has come about because of what we have called border wars. If you cross the border you can die. You’ll be shot, you’ll be killed."

In the midst of all of this is Ryan Assing, a high school student who wants to work hard and make his parents proud. "I just want to be somebody in life," he says. He faces numerous challenges because of the neighborhood he lives in including finding transportation to school. Taxi drivers are hesitant to visit his area, fearful of gang violence.

A member of the Trinidad and Tobago Cadet Force, Ryan goes to drill formation after school every day to lead the band in practice.

"What I want to do after school is join the Coast Guard or Fire Service anything to do with right now to do with protect and serve for the country that is my goal."

Ryan participates in the Resistance and Prevention Program (RAPP), which is funded by the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) and implemented by PADF. RAPP seeks to engage communities. The program reaches out to police officers, social workers, government officials, parents and youth themselves in order to tackle the root causes of crime.

"It’s all preventing the younger ones from getting into this position of dealing with crime. If this program reach big, which it will reach big, it will help out a lot because we're looking at the younger ones' future."

 

PADF Hosts Regional Crime Prevention Conference in Trinidad

Participants from three countries share best practices in social crime prevention 

Port of Spain, Trinidad (March 14, 2016) – On March 14 and 15, the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF) will host a Caribbean Regional Conference on Crime Prevention in Trinidad and Tobago. The event will take place at the Hyatt Regency Trinidad in Port of Spain and will bring together participants from the Bahamas, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago. 

For more than two years, PADF has been implementing the Resistance and Prevention Program (RAPP), funded by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), in close collaboration with law enforcement agencies, government institutions and community groups in three countries. 

Since 2014, PADF has trained over 850 law enforcement officers and 7,500 at-risk youth and community members through its RAPP program. The program has also provided funds to implement small-scale crime prevention projects in neighborhoods with high crime rates.

RAPP is a unique regional effort that employs a social crime prevention approach to reduce crime and violence, particularly among at-risk youth, in the Caribbean.

The objective of this regional effort is:

  • To enhance the capacity of young people, police, justice sector and other government officials to work together on crime prevention
  • To build mutual trust between these two groups to identify and anticipate the common causes of crime before they develop

Representatives from Trinidad, the Bahamas and Suriname are expected to attend, including senior police, lawyers, magistrates, citizen security experts and staff from government ministries including education, national security and urban renewal. 

“This unique social crime prevention program has been very successful in these countries,” says Roberto Obando, RAPP program director at PADF. “Through this conference, our goal is to bring together law enforcement and government officials from various Caribbean countries to share their successes, best practices and lessons learned with their peers.”

The event will begin promptly at 9:00 a.m. on Monday March 14, 2016 with a welcome speech by Nicholas Galt, Executive Chairman of the TSL Group and PADF Board Member. Representatives from the U.S. Department of State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) will also attend. Detective Mary Wheat from the Portland Police Department in Oregon will deliver a keynote lecture on strategies to increase public safety and reduce violence in the region.

The two-day workshop will include discussions on evidence-based practices, inter-agency collaboration and experiential learning as a tool to address the needs of at-risk youth. PADF works as a strong advocate for youth throughout the region. Our initiatives focus on employment generation, leadership training, combatting forced labor, crime and violence prevention and civic participation.

Paying it Forward: RAPP Trainees Become Teachers

Sergeant Garth Brooks speaks with a student at Laventille Success Secondary School.

Sergeant Garth Brooks speaks with a student at Laventille Success Secondary School.

A group of Trinidadian professionals completed the second round of PADF’s Resistance and Prevention Program (RAPP) accreditation training at the national police academy in Port of Spain, Trinidad in October 2015. With an average test score of 93 percent, these 23 accredited facilitators work in law enforcement, social work and education. They are now ready to train their peers in a five-day RAPP course on social crime prevention. A project of PADF and the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, RAPP’s custom curriculum tackles active listening skills, conflict resolution, strategies for reducing gang and domestic violence, and the use of evidence-based practices.

Sharon Francis-Gaines, a social work specialist with the Trinidad Ministry of Education, had taken the class before and returned to become accredited to teach it. “This training is exactly what I need,” she says. She’s been in social work for 10 years and is familiar with the crime and delinquency plaguing the schools. “We’re trying to use the techniques we learned in RAPP to create interventions. The strategy is so detailed. It’s easier to map and monitor. It gives the responsibility to different agencies.”

Sharon Francis-Gaines (right) works with a group to create an action plan at RAPP accreditation training in October 2015.

Sharon Francis-Gaines (right) works with a group to create an action plan at RAPP accreditation training in October 2015.

Francis-Gaines has seen powerful results from RAPP events like the mock trial, which engaged both students and parents in an honest discussion of what they are facing in school. “You can tell the school has settled,” Francis-Gaines said. “A lot of good came out of the mock trial. We got a lot of parents asking for more of it.”

The same week, two accredited facilitators taught a RAPP training on social crime prevention to a full classroom of 21 participants at the Chagaunas police station, about 40 minutes outside of Port of Spain. “I consider it my national duty,” said Brenda McCree-Hunte, who co-taught the course. “I will do whatever I can to help.”  The goal of RAPP training is to prepare participants to serve as leaders in crime prevention, especially among “at-risk” youth, identify root causes of crime, and promote concrete crime prevention techniques, such as the use of action plans in targeted “hotspot” areas.

PADF staff accompanied members of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service to Laventille Success Secondary School to see RAPP in action. The police officers, who have undergone RAPP training, regularly visit the school, which is in a high-crime area of the capitol.

Sergeant Garth Brooks, who comes from a family of police officers and has been on the force for 26 years, pulled several of the kids aside and spoke to them about their behavior in a fatherly tone. “I remind them they are in school. They’re missing that guidance, that reinforcement. There’s a lack of it. Most of them live in single parent homes.”

Those who have gone through the RAPP training program see the benefits of approaching youth crime and violence from multiple angles. Multiple agencies must be involved, and the community must also see the value in crime prevention. By creating mutually beneficial and trusting relationship, government-citizen collaboration can affect positive change, especially among the next generation. 

“A safe school climate involves parent participation,” says Francis-Gaines. “We want parent buy-in. We want them to be involved. The ministry of education cannot do it alone.”