Law Enforcers Voice Concerns, Possible Solutions to Violence at School Sporting Events

Commissioner of Police, Atlee Rodney. Chief of Defence Staff, Colonel Telbert Benjamin. Deputy Director of Sports, Evans “Jawakie” Jones.
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By Neto Baptiste

Adequate and proper security at and around sporting venues during school competitions has long been the subject of debates and continues to dominate discussions amidst fresh occurrences of violence and illegal activities at these Ministry of Sports events.

Recent incidents reportedly involving students from at least three secondary institutions, have led to principals pulling entire teams form the ongoing Schools Football Competition and at least one student being brought up on charges related to the possession of a modified flare gun and one round of 9mm ammunition while at a schools’ football match.

Speaking on the Good Morning Jojo sports show this week, Commissioner of Police Atlee Rodney said the force has been working in conjunction with a number of agencies in an effort to arrest the concerning trend.

“Anytime young people start to get themselves involved in those behaviours it’s a concern for the police because it has a devastating effect on them individually and also on the society, so it is something that we take very seriously and that is why we continue to partner with the Ministry of Sports, Ministry of Education, with other civic groups trying to assist in minimising the problem with young people getting involved in any form of violence. So for us, it is something very serious and we will continue to put our best effort out there to see how best we can address this situation,” he said. 

In another reported incident, a student from another secondary school was reportedly caught showcasing a firearm to other students while at a schools’ football game at Radio Range playing field.

Deputy Director Sports within the Ministry of Sports, Evans “Jawakie” Jones, said the measures have been in place to assist in mitigating against similar occurrences.

“When the children leave school to play the games, we have only the children who are playing the game enter the school bus in their uniform. We are suggesting also that the principals assists with searching their bags when they leave school. We don’t have control of their bags when they leave home coming to school because you know how children find ways and means to beat the system,” he said. 

Chief of Defence Staff, Colonel Telbert Benjamin of the Antigua and Barbuda Defence Force (ABDF) said that although the ABDF is willing to play a role in bringing the situation under the control, their involvement must however be carefully measured.

“The Antigua and Barbuda Defence Force is an entity for escalation and whenever our presence is within a particular environment it really escalates what is happening and so we support the police. We support the police in soft ways, in particular our discussion and observing what’s happening and we support the police in hard ways which is our physical presence,” he said.

“For us — and the commissioner can speak more to this — these are not necessarily instances where we see the need to escalate it and put a physical military presence there, but there are issues of concerns. So we do the soft pieces with a conversation, observing as Jawakie said, the facilities where incidents are more likely to happen,” Colonel Benjamin added.

Several schools to include the Sir Novelle Richards Academy and the St. Mary’s Secondary School, have been pulled from the Boys Under-16 competition in the ongoing Schools Football Championships. There were similar incidents last year.

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