“Mr. Shanmugam added that whenever possible, it is necessary for early intervention, so that boys stop associating with one another when there is potential for trouble” (More Will Be Done To Help Youth At Risk, Miss Kimberly Spykerman).
With the recent violent incidents at Downtown East and Bukit Panjang, the report “More Will Be Done To Help Youth At Risk” (November 13, 2010) by Miss Kimberly Spykerman provides constructive recommendations from the administration to deal with the concerns of at-risk youths and gang violence. Minister for Home Affairs K. Shanmugam is right to point out that hard, punitive actions should be complemented by early intervention; especially when it has been highlighted that youths who join gangs match a certain profile. It is imperative for the relevant agencies to tackle the root causes of such senseless violence under these circumstances, since prevention is better than cure.
The main problem is that the administration has not dedicated sufficient resources and effort into this early intervention phase; while many of the subsidiary programmes appear to be superficial and sorely missing the target. To say that these tasked agencies are missing the target would be an understatement. Prison visits, school talks, and similar preventative measures are marginally decent, but the National Committee on Youth Guidance and Rehabilitation (NYGR) and the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) have the potential to increase the quantity and quality of the programmes. Looking beyond the short-term initiatives, the representatives have to take a more macro view of the stakeholders, and provide more tangible assistance in the form of keeping students in school, engaging them in activities, managing households et cetera.
It is not fair to assert that preventative efforts by the NYGR and MCYS are the main reasons for dips in youth crime. Instead, what is more worthy of praise are the assortment of voluntary organisations – and their staff and volunteers – who have worked staunchly and tirelessly behind the scenes to mediate such problems and to empower at-risk youths. Organisations such as Children-At-Risk Empowerment (CARE) and the Student Advisory Centre (SAC) have been putting in effort to keep their beneficiaries in school, and helping them make the right choices in a plethora of aspects of their lives.
Their contributions, and many others, have been pivotal; yet they often face challenges in the form of the lack of empowerment, and insufficient manpower and resources. NYGR and MCYS can expand their outreach efforts by working hand-in-hand with these agencies; and also complement their endeavours by addressing concerns within households, and helping struggling families develop more conducive environments within homes for their children.
Helping at-risk youths take more than just a few seminars and field trips; if the administration continues to take the status quo for granted and not empower the relevant organisations, the problem might eventually spiral out of control.