‘Thug lifestyle’ said to be a survival tactic for some young men

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Two panellists who have had careers studying the criminal behaviour of young men in the region are in agreement that druginfluenced gun violence in Antigua and Barbuda is linked to self-preservation.
On Sunday’s Big Issues programme, Former St. Kitts/Nevis Police Commissioner, Dr Celcin Walwyn, said that there is a large number of at-risk young men who are not working and who see picking up a gun as the easiest way to survive.
“They are coming from disadvantaged areas and the drugs are paying for them to survive and they will protect their turf,” Walwyn said. The other panellist, Criminologist and Psychologist Renee Cummings, said that many of the young men need to be psychologically examined since they seem to struggle with learning disabilities, recklessness and impulsivity.
Cummings explained that these factors correlate with their desire to access weapons but “it’s not solely the social or the criminogenic conditions that create these individuals.” “For a lot of individuals, crime and seduction into the criminal lifestyle and seduction into violent lifestyle is seen as something that is very hip, trendy or sexy… it’s a form of getting respect and getting paid.”
The criminologist said media platforms, such as Netflix, give viewers a glorified insight into the life of infamous characters, and many of the most popular shows depict the thug life. “You kind of understand for some young men, the criminal lifestyle gives you a sense of status, gives you a sense of power, it’s your claim to fame.”
Cummings said that for the marginalised “young men who don’t have access to the system as they would like to have, they create their own systems” and find a way to access money, cigars and other ill-gotten perks.
In the same discussion, the former Kittitian Police Commissioner said that the continuous pleas to community members to cooperate with the police and for the lawmen to develop programmes to “blend with the community” will never bear fruit until there is trust between both groups.
“But we need to, as academics, go into these prisons or jails and sit down with the guys who have been convicted of these crimes and find out what was the catalyst that caused them to do this,” Walwyn said.

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