DEALING with the problem of criminal gangs of youths should now be one of the Zambian government’s policy priorities.
This is important because today Zambia is witnessing an unmatched and horrid manifestation of criminal gangs of youths such as those calling themselves Junkies, Fluffies, Unruly, Tokota Boys etc, which are rapidly spreading their tentacles to many parts of Zambia.
Sadly though, our police seem not to be on top of matters which if not properly handled, are a recipe for serious breakdown of law and order in the entire Zambia. The situation is as serious as that.
Take the Junkies which started in Lusaka’s Makeni Villa, but have now opened branches in Livingstone and some parts of Lusaka including Helen Kaunda, Kalikiliki and Mtendere where they are carrying out criminal activities with preposterous impunity.
It goes therefore without saying that Government should act now and its approach to this problem should be tailored to those specific groups and individual gang members if we are to see any progressive results.
The integrated approach designed to tackle gangs of youths at local levels can also be coordinated by the local authority in collaboration with the police.
People must understand that juvenile crimes can range from status offenses, such as underage smoking, drinking, to property and violent crimes.
Many such bad youths could be as a result of undesirable outcomes from low school attainment, belligerent behaviour, substance use and other social vices.
There is also an increased risk of young criminals among children of teenage mothers associated with low income, poor housing, absent fathers and poor child-rearing methods.
These bad boys may also be involved in shoplifting, robbery, burglary, and other property thefts and for those that get away with it tend to progress further and further into criminal activity.
As for their activities in Lusaka, these range from fleecing money from mini bus drivers by using force and violence, to demanding money from individuals while armed with knives like the case is in Kalikiliki, Helen Kaunda and Mtendere Townships.
And this is exactly how armed militia organisations such as Al-Shabaab was founded in 2006 in Somalia purely to overthrow the Western-backed governments by carrying out vicious suicide bombing attacks and other acts of brutality against the so-called “enemies of Islam”.
Apart from early intervention which plays a central role in keeping these youths from embarking on a life of crime, we think that parents have a crucial role too to play in preventing their children from committing criminal and anti-social acts.
We will also admit that in today’s society being a teenager can be difficult feat in itself as some teenagers find it easier to take out their frustrations on other people.
These criminal acts affect their victims emotionally, physically and mentally as often times these brigands will also verbally abuse their victims by calling them rude names or humiliating them in front of their peers.
We also know that while there are no perfect ways to predict the chances of a teenager becoming violent or a criminal, a violent history or abusive background could be a major red flag. It is a warning sign of potential future violent outbursts.
But in Zambia’s case, we think the situation has reached terrifying levels and unless government moves in swiftly, Zambia could soon be entering a higher style of criminality.