Christie makes pledge on Urban Renewal

By KHRISNA VIRGIL kvirgil@tribunemedia.net OPPOSITION leader Perry Christie said Urban Renewal will be re-implemented within 48 hours of his party's election. The joint police and Social Services programme, aimed at breathing new life into inner city communities, won acclaim internationally and was one of the major reasons for the decrease in crime seen under the last PLP administration, from 2002 to 2007, Mr Christie said. He said: "This programme has educated people in knowing that they have to protect themselves, get involved with the police and take the appropriate direction. "We got an annual report saying crimes against persons were decreasing dramatically because of this programme." However, Mr Christie said "the thriving social initiative" was sabotaged by the FNM because of politics. "Because it had my handprint on it, the new government came in 2007 and gutted the programme and changed the whole course," he said. Mr Christie highlighted Urban Renewal's "multidimensional mentoring programmes", saying they provided young men who were expelled from school with an opportunity to reform their attitudes and approach to life. Urban Renewal's school policing arm, he said, played a part in revealing that school-aged boys were taking guns and other weapons into the classroom. "I went into the House of Assembly and dumped on to the table, as prime minister, the kinds of weapons that were being taken in and we knew the day would come when students would be getting killed," he said. Mr Christie said the PLP made a "fundamental decision" to begin school policing knowing that one day, the officers assigned to the unit would evolve into individuals able to mediate disputes and promote conflict resolution. The FNM has always insisted it never cancelled Urban Renewal, but rather made it more efficient and focused in the wake of accusations that the PLP used the programme's personnel as campaigning assets. However, school policing was in fact cancelled after the 2007 election, the governing party arguing that making students feel as if they were prisoners under guard would have a negative effect on their development.


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