THE Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) is hosting youth boot camps to sensitise young people on crime issues as part of its efforts to prevent and eliminate crime in the country.
Hundreds of young people from Berea, Butha-Buthe, Quthing and Mohale’s Hoek have already taken part in the programme and the police hope that the participants will grow into crime detesting responsible citizens.
Police spokesperson Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli recently told the Sunday Express that the programme is being rolled out during school holidays to avoid clashing with participants’ school activities.
Supt Mopeli the boot camps are targeted at sensitizing young people on issues of crime, drawing from the old Sesotho adage that it is best to teach children on the straight and narrow path while they are still young.
“There is an old Sesotho saying that says thupa e otlolloa esale le metsi (best to teach children on the straight and narrow path while they are still young) so that they can grow up fully aware of crimes around them to ensure that they don’t end up being either criminals or victims of crime,” Supt Mopeli said.
He said it was important for children to understand from an early age that it is the responsibility of every citizen to prevent crime in their respective areas to ensure that they all live in a protected environment.
He also said they are worried about the increasing numbers of children involved in criminal activities adding that the situation needed to be curbed forthwith.
“Teenagers are increasingly getting involved in crime and we have realised the importance of sensitisation programmes at an early age so that children are aware of the dangers of crime,” he said.
He added that the numbers of child offenders at the Juvenile Training Centre were changing from time to time and that there were days where the facility is filled; a development he said was worrying for a small country like Lesotho.
“One child detained at the centre is too many and a serious challenge to the country. This is primarily the reason for which we decided to hold the youth camps so that they grow up knowing fully what is wrong and what is right,” Supt Mopeli said.
He said raising children was a collective responsibility. He said the programme has received overwhelming support from parents and guardians across the country.
Earlier this year, Justice and Correctional Service Minister Moletsane Mokhele told our sister paper the Lesotho Times that crime among children was a growing concern that needed to be dealt with swiftly.
He said there was a Probation Department in his ministry which deals mostly with cases involving children and that the department was only based in Maseru despite growing numbers of cases involving children across the country.
“There are so many cases to deal with in one district, yet we only have one officer and justice for children is a delicate issue that must be dealt with diligently. Children need protection, they need specialised personnel who have been trained to handle their issues, children are being raped and violated and the probation unit must be capacitated,” Mr Mokhele said.
He said Probation was a ministry of justice’s unit or department that deals mostly with issues around restorative justice – a broader issue involving the courts, ministry of justice and the police.
He however, said that the unit lacked both human and financial resources and this negatively affects its effectiveness.
“Just looking at some children in our communities, it is easier to tell that certain children will end up in a correctional facility but if the probation unit was active and well resourced, that would be prevented because staffers would be able to counsel the children and communities to ensure that they do not end up in the Juvenile Training Centre (JTC).
“Most of the children from JTC go straight to the correctional facilities and we can prevent this by funding the probation unit. This is a very sensitive area that I trust that the government and all of us will one day understand how critical it is and ensure that there is access to these services. These are centralised government services that Basotho need to access,” Mr Mokhele said.
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