Education Director advocates for loitering to be made a criminal offence

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The Director of Education in Antigua and Barbuda is advocating for loitering to be made a criminal offence and for parents to be held accountable. Clare Browne is of the strong belief that this stringent measure could be used to address what he termed as a “worrying issue that has been left unattended for years”.
 “We must do something like that if somehow we are going to curb this problem. We want to make sure that once that happens parents too are held accountable for children who are loitering down town,” Browne said during a recorded interview which was issued to the media on Monday.
He stated that in the event students are caught loitering in the capital of St. John’s when it becomes a criminal offence, parents and guardians will be required to sign release forms once children are picked up by the police.
“We don’t want to go there, but we have to go there. Do you know how many fights and so on have broken out in town just because students are loitering in a particular area?” the education director said.
Education, officials and law enforcement officers have struggled, for many years, to address the problem of school-aged children loitering after school hours.
In October 2014, the government went to Parliament to amend the Criminal Law Amendment Bill 2014 that sought to hold parents and guardians accountable for children found loitering on the streets between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. in attempt to address one aspect of the issue – loitering at nights.
During the debate at that time, Attorney General Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin noted that the bill would address the important social issue of young children loitering on the streets at night and that parents or guardians could be fined, if the court deems appropriate, $500 where the child has no proper reason for being on the streets at 10 p.m. and beyond.
He also stated that in some instances, the police would be required to investigate incidents where they find persons under 16 years loitering in the streets, and if not satisfied with the reason(s) given, that child would be held and the parent(s)/guardian(s) called in for questioning.
It is unclear as to whether this is currently being enforced.
Additionally, it does not appear to be sufficient to address the issue raised by the education director – that is, loitering immediately after school which generally ends at 3 p.m.
Meanwhile, the education official has also repeated calls for parents to do more to ensure that their children are not on the streets late at the end of each school day. He also pointed out that police officers too, are responsible for breaking up the gathering of students.
“Students get into all kinds of mischief once they are loitering like that downtown. This is an immediate problem, we cannot wait until something happens before we take action and so, this is something that we intend to try to do, to work with the lawmakers to get this in motion,” the director of education said.

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