A Student Shares His Ideas for Crime Prevention

When One World Education Student Ambassador Damonne Nickens was a 10th grade student at Ballou High School, he wrote an essay about youth crime and crime prevention. Acknowledging that he had made “bad choices” in the past he wrote about spending 60 days in Youth Services Center, or Y.S.C. While there he said he “promised myself never to break the law or do things just because my associates were doing them.” He also has had experiences being the victim of crime, saying he has been “robbed, jumped, threatened, and even chased home.”

He believes witnessing and experiencing peer pressure and a desire to fit in with more economically privileged friends spurs a lot of youth crime. “I strongly believe,” he wrote, “if youth had better programs, recreation centers, year-round jobs, mentors, and after school activities, a lot of today’s crimes could be prevented.”

Examining his own school district, he notes that he thinks more educational programs should be offered. “Now, the few programs that are offered are usually only offered to students that meet a certain criteria, such as a high GPA, or good athletic skills. However, just one club or activity offered in after school programs may be the key to detour a child’s life that’s off track towards the right direction. Just maybe they can seek change if given the option to join. I don’t think that programs should have stipulations that leave certain kids unable to be involved because they don’t fit the criteria’s.”

He concluded his essay with this: “I believe that more time and money need to be spent to help better youth services. Millions of dollars are spent each year to house and monitor juvenile that commit crimes. If half of that money was spent on recreation centers, after school programs, mentors, education and other juvenile based programs I don’t think that most kids will ever enter the juvenile system.”

Damonne is right, the more options youth have to attend afterschool activities, the less likely it is they will become involved with crime, drugs, or other risky behavior. It also reduces school dropout rates. Afterschool and before school programs are offered as a strategy for reducing youth crime by the National Crime Prevention Council and by the Afterschool Alliance.

So what is happening? At the national level, the federal government has allocated more than one billion dollars annually since 2008 for afterschool programs. This academic year, the DC Public Schools system is offering “Out-of-School Time Programs” at 57 schools. There are also community programs run by organizations like Higher Achievement, the Boys and Girls Club, and Martha’s Table. Let’s heed Damonne’s advice and use and promote these options for youth who need it.

And teachers, you can now use the writing unit built around Damonne’s essay in your classroom.

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