If ever there was a situation where we all need to get involved, seek solutions and action them; this one is it.
We’re looking at the rise of gangs of young boys and men who have shown total disregard for any rules or laws - traditional or otherwise, to damage property, harm people and create an atmosphere of fear in the community.
And although today’s news article is just a brief sidebar story on the front page, it is important because it is a follow up to a number of disturbing incidents that have been covered by this newspaper recently.
This gang, who have given themselves a name signifying bravado, Ola Po’o le Oti or O.P.O. which translates to, Dead or Alive.
And while this gang is not the only one, according to the Police spokesperson, Maotaoalii Kaioneta Kitiona, it is the one that has captured the most attention of our Police.
Thankfully our Police force have realised the importance of dealing with this problem at this early stage before the situations escalates because already, there are signs that there is an element of organisation within the group.
With red clothing and bandanas to signify their membership, the group is following the age-old structure pattern of gangs all over the world, even down to holding meetings to plan future moves.
To understand why in any society these groups emerge, considerable research documents and many relevant studies are available.
In a text, ‘Understanding Youth Violence’ by Finn-Aage, Dana Peterson, Terrance J Taylor and Adrienne Freng, the authors discuss juveniles looking for identity and stability in gangs when they adopt a sub culture which includes alcohol and drug use, conflict and violence.
These conditions, the authors say, are a result of “a lack of education and employment and lives of poverty without opportunities.”
Sadly with a large youth population in Samoa those phrases about the ‘lack of education and employment’ coupled with ‘poverty without opportunities’ fit the situation in our country perfectly.
The authors go on, “harmful behaviours exhibited by these gang members can start early and continue into young adulthood.”
So what should we, as a community do?
We know that the Police who are here to keep us safe are seeking information and our help so they can find these young people.
Do they just get removed from the streets and we all breathe a sigh of relief?
Or are we interested in finding out the reasons why these sons, brothers, cousins, nephews of families in our community are finding what they are seeking by banding together and being destructive?
What about friends and families, our Village Councils, churches, youth groups, schools, sports organisations?
What about the government ministries, the N.G.O.’s, the Youth Council, the business community, the media?
What about Government involving all of the above groups in realistic plans and action by to address youth unemployment which for years has been ignored?
Have we all done as much as we possibly can to engage these young people and offer hope and opportunities to them?
Or is our Government which we re-elected, been far too busy with their propensity for formidable buildings around town, to even notice the plight of the people outside of them?
We look forward to hearing your thoughts.