Founder of Youth Against Violence Carlos Reid has been working with at-risk youth for more than two decades having earned certification in Gang Prevention, Intervention and Remediation in Chicago, Illinois in 1995, during the height of the gang era in the United States of America (USA).
Since the late 1980s and 1990s, there has been an increase in violent acts committed by juvenile gangs that evolved out of dangerous street gangs throughout the USA and according to Reid, he and a team of experts forewarned government officials and law enforcement then, to heed their advice and take a proactive stance on behalf of the youth of The Bahamas before the situation escalates to epidemic proportions in this archipelagic nation.
“The team of experts and I, as far back as 1996, pleaded with the authorities to begin taking proactive steps to mitigate the escalation of youth gangs that had begun infiltrating our communities in The Bahamas.
“Notably at that time there were approximately 35 youth gangs operating in The Bahamas and we saw then, that if the issue was not taken in hand, we would soon discover that we would be facing the same troubles of the USA, whereby, lifetime gangsters would essentially, pass on their criminal legacy to their children and other impressionable (at-risk) youth, which had been occurring in Chicago, Illinois.
“Of course, members of the government and the authorities at the time dismissed the information provided and by 2001, after we had returned to Chicago, Illinois two years prior providing additional evidence-based information, we saw a significant spike in organized crime in The Bahamas similar to that in the USA.
“Today, youth gang operations have matured into organized criminal entities with the gang culture being funded by the dangerous gangs, which are trafficking drugs, weapons and ammunition as well as they are involved in contraband and human trafficking,” Reid revealed.
Reach Out Youth Organization (ROYO) founder Dudley Seide and Reid have recently joined forces partnering with well-respected youth leaders that include, but is not limited to Darrin Rolle, Falcons Boys’ Club; Church of God Hawksbill Youth pastor Gregory Dames; former YMCA Executive Director Terry Goldsmith and Church of God of Prophecy Bishop Joseph Hall whose primary objectives is to present a unified front and implement effective strategies against gang violence.
Additionally, Reid and Seide hope to gain 100 percent partnership of The Bahamas Government, Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF), the church and the community at large to save at-risk youth and impede the scourge of violence being unleashed across the nation.
“Our youth are attracted to the gang lifestyle with many idolizing these career gangsters/criminals and while they do not know the leaders of the gangs, they are declaring that they are members of these crews all because they want to be a part of it.
“Definitely, we need to work together, as we do not want Grand Bahama to end up in the same position as that of Nassau, New Providence as it relates to gang violence and its escalation.
“Presently there are two major gangs operating in Freeport, Grand Bahama D-Block and the Nike Boys, which are spin-offs of gangs in Nassau.
“We do not want these young boys (at-risk/inner city youth) getting into that lifestyle because once they get in, one of the hardest things for them to do is to get out,” said Reid, who went onto revealed that the reality is they would either end up dead or in prison.
Both Reid and Seide have helped to turn the lives of thousands of young boys around and have raised funds on numerous occasions to assist with the travel expenses of those enrolled in their organizations to visit the Bahamas Department of Corrections/Her Majesty’s Prison hoping to deter them from engaging in a life of crime.
Reid revealed that the prison system is overpopulated and comprises mainly of young boys, who are being exploited by career criminals and action must be taken now before another life is lost to the grave and the prison system.
“When one looks at the recent crime report released by the Royal Bahamas Police Force Commissioner and his team, it reveals that nearly all violent crimes are being committed by young boys 16 to 20 years old.
“Not only are they the perpetrators of these criminal acts but also the victims and we need to work together with our young people; we need the Bahamas Government, Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) the Church, civic and corporate organizations to rally around people like us, who know and have given their lives to turn this situation around before the entire Bahamas is destroyed.
“Every day I study gangs and another street gang we have to look at seriously is the Zoe Pound, which is a criminal street gang based in Miami, Florida founded by Haitian immigrants with remnant ties throughout The Bahamas.
“Right now according to those in the Haitian community there seems to be a war between the Bahamas Government and Haitian immigrants; a lot of these young persons are witnessing how their parents are being treated and they are angry.
“We have to pay special attention to this because if the Zoe Pound really burst loose like we believe it may, The Bahamas is going to be in serious trouble and that is putting it mildly,” Reid declared.
Adamant that in The Bahamas not enough is being done to raise good youth leaders and that there is no motivating factor to entice the young men to join the youth mentorship fold, Reid stated that a lot of today’s leaders are funding themselves.
Furthermore, he pointed out that the youth leaders spend their time, talent and resources thanklessly and the Ministry of Youth, Sports & Culture does nothing to properly support youth leaders financially or otherwise.
“Youth mentorship worldwide is one of the most underappreciated jobs and there are people who literally give their lives in service becoming fathers and mothers to children.
“Youth leaders more often than not have to put their hands into their pockets to simply carry young boys and girls to the barber or hair salon to be groomed, provide a meal, clothing and the bare essentials all in an effort to show that they care.
“We hope and pray that these little gestures of genuine kindness help them to steer clear of trouble but again youth leaders need proper assistance.
“Minister of State for Tourism Travis Robinson is someone I personally invested time in and I am proud that today he is the youngest person ever to serve in Parliament, which goes to show that youth leaders consider what they do a divine calling.
“Furthermore, if we (youth leaders) can impact at least one life, we have done our job and help to preserve and positively influence the next generation but we have to take a proactive stance and do that which is necessary now before it is too late,” declared Reid.