Canaan Heights Makes Turn for the Better
Problems with crime, teenage pregnancy, lack of skills and employment plagued Canaan Heights in Clarendon for years. But with the assistance of a number of agencies including the Social Development Commission (SDC), the Clarendon Crime Prevention Committee, and now the Citizen Security and Justice Programme, the community has been shaking off its tag as one of Clarendon's most violent communities. Seven months ago, the Ministry of National Security's new CSJP II which expanded to 39 communities, joined the ranks of agencies making a contribution hand in hand with residents and other agencies.
According to CSJP Community Action Officer, Valerie Samuels, the community, a small area located opposite the Mineral Heights housing scheme and about a mile from the parish capital, May Pen, has been receptive to programmes introduced by the CSJP II; many community members are benefitting from life-enhancing programmes.
Months after CSJP II was launched in the community, skills training courses have been introduced for residents at the local Skills Training and Community Development Institute. Skills training has been given primacy as residents say lack of employability has contributed to the community's long history with crime.
Samuels says CSJP has also been on a drive to place youth in summer job. A two week summer camp for teenagers was recently staged in an effort to cut down on the number of pregnancies, Samuels reported. The teens benefitted from counselling sessions as well as activities like sewing and art and craft to channel their energies in positive directions.
Other CSJP programmes have been introduced with the aim of encouraging community action against crime. Samuels noted that Canaan Heights is the only community in Clarendon with a Community Development Committee (CDC), which drives the work. "They (community members) seem interested in getting the skills and doing remedial work," she said of the residents' reaction.
She said the community also needed infrastructural development, and work is now underway to erect street signs, with a view to providing easy access to emergency services.
Canaan Heights has in the past been plagued by gang feuds, murders and other crimes. Up to 2008, police described the violence there as "savagery", with a homicide rate, that exceeded two murders per week in March 2008 alone (police statistics).
It was a place where outsiders feared to enter, and where persons in the community seeking employment had to hide their address in order to secure jobs.
In various appearances in the media over the years, community members have consistently cried for development, opportunity and training.
Change has come with work of the police, agencies like the SDC, and now, CSJP, in cooperation with residents.