Several years ago, as a young court reporter I followed a case of a 15- year- old boy who was convicted of rape and sent to prison.
My heart broke for the boy because he was hardly a man when he was mixed with hardcore criminals for over a year in a grown man’s prison while he awaited trial. Back then I wasn’t a mother and I hadn’t experienced violent crime first hand. Last week my handbag was snatched with my documents and cellphones in it.
This week as I was battling to come to terms with the early arrival of the working season for thieves who have set a trend of intensifying efforts in my area towards the Christmas season, I was hit with a stone on the forehead a couple of metres away from my house and a loaf of bread stolen from me.
The culprits in both incidences, you would be shocked to know, were kids not more than 13 years old by the look of things; unless of course they were so malnourished and stunted in growth that they looked younger than their real ages, which would then partially explain why they would risk a possible juvenile prison punishment for stealing a loaf of bread.
I was lucky to get away with a pounding head and loss of a few items from both instances. My neighbour who was mugged for a cell phone a while ago was stabbed with a knife on the forehead and had to go to the hospital for a couple of stitches. Again the culprits were a group of young boys barely out of primary school!
On Tuesday evening as I came face to face with the new face of violent crime I had every reason to be unnerved. There were five of them and like experienced professionals who knew exactly what they were doing they attacked, with only one of them making demands for the plastic bag I was holding as the rest grabbed me violently, one by the neck in an attempt to strangle me.
To be honest though instead of being struck by fear, what kept racing in my head at that instant as I wrestled with them and screamed for help was the question, “whose children are these, and what were their parents thinking to let them loose on the streets at this time of day engaging in criminal activities and whether the children take their day’s worth home to their loving and approving parents at the end of it all, or not? Ok, I did have a fleeting moment where It crossed my mind that I might end up with the taste of a steel blade, but the children were actually just too small to strike any serious fear in me that could have caused my heart to pound and my palms to sweat.
I must admit though that once I got home, after I had done explaining to my little boys why I came back with no bread, and they had amused us with a demonstration of how they were going to beat those thieves once they are grown up, I could hardly sleep.
I pondered on how unsafe our streets have become because of these little rascals and wondered what happened to the young rapist I reported on over 10 years ago. Did he survive prison. Did he reform? Did he go on to become a worse criminal or did he die?
In the end I realised that a violent generation is definitely upon us and unless we come up with a juvenile justice system which can protect law abiding citizens who make an effort to raise their kids right and at the same time rehabilitate those children who still have a chance, before we end up with an unmanageable gang problem on our hands.
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