Jamaica Community Empowerment and Transformation Project
Tetra Tech improved community policing programs and implemented activities with vulnerable populations and at-risk youth to generate economic opportunity, decrease crime and violence, and introduce disaster risk reduction techniques in Jamaica.
Jamaica faces three major challenges to becoming a strong, viable, safe, secure, and developed country: economic instability, elevated levels of crime and violence, and vulnerability to natural disasters. Safety and security issues primarily impact poor, urban communities, and youth are both the largest group of perpetrators and primary victims of violent crime. Through the five-year U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Community Empowerment and Transformation (COMET) II project, Tetra Tech worked to advance citizen security through community-driven activities to improve crime prevention, intervention, and enforcement, while enhancing the rule of law, engaging at-risk youth, and supporting community policing.
To promote community-driven activities that improve crime prevention, Tetra Tech supported the establishment of 15 community resource centers (CRCs) through small grants to community-based organizations (CBOs). Through the CRCs, Tetra Tech introduced a comprehensive social enterprise model that included governance, micro-enterprise development, and sustainability, with nearly 50 CBOs trained and equipped as social enterprises.
Because of the USAID COMET II Project’s grant, the Kitson Town [community development committee (CDC)] has gained recognition from just being a fledgling group seeking endorsement from the community to becoming the premier civil society organization in West Central St. Catherine. Here unattached and marginalized youth and vulnerable women in particular have now found an affirming physical space at the CRC, where they receive support and skills training. The capacity building training prior to and during the implementation of the grant has boosted our confidence in community advocacy and in creating social value. Soon we will be the proud producers of an exciting suite of products developed from the jackfruit under the social enterprise component of the grant. We are now a strong community group and the landscape of the community of Kitson Town has been changed forever.Devon Thompson, Kitson Town CDC President
The project prioritized constructive youth engagement, providing long-term opportunities for them to contribute to their communities through educational, vocational, and technical skills building programs; community cultural and sporting events; and youth-focused micro-enterprise initiatives. The CRCs became the default venue in their communities for positive activities for youth, including community meetings, workshops on crime prevention and domestic violence, community service, and English, mathematics, and journalism classes.
Through the iVALUE initiative to engage young people in crime reduction, the project trained and supported youth ambassadors to create and disseminate anti-violence messages through performing arts; plan and implement youth projects; and incorporate positive values in those projects. Tetra Tech also applied a rehabilitative, holistic approach to assisting juvenile offenders and other at-risk youth, including working with school resource officers and deans of discipline, building conflict resolution skills among youth, supporting peer mediation, and collaborating with parish-level drug treatment court programs to prevent and divert at-risk youth from criminal activity and encourage them into productive and lawful enterprises and employment.
The team also built climate change adaptation activities into each component of the project to improve communities’ resilience to extreme weather events and climate change. COMET II supported the development of Community Disaster Mitigation Plans and used GIS mapping to help communities identify climate-smart locations for CRCs and establish green criteria for CRC construction, reducing natural disaster vulnerability. Green features included water catchment facilities, solar panels, environmentally safe waste disposal, and disaster risk reduction equipment. The CRCs now serve as hubs for disaster risk reduction training and awareness-raising. Tetra Tech also expanded the project’s reach through strategic partnerships including working with the Jamaica Red Cross to develop a disaster risk reduction training program for Police Youth Clubs and Safer House trainings with community members.
COMET II capitalized on both traditional and new media to foster support for the rule of law and a culture of lawfulness, especially among youth. The project broadcasted key messages on television, during cricket matches and other popular events; through social media channels; on local and community radio; and in community-level events and meetings. The project also had a community journalism component focused on increasing demand for improved accountability and counteracting persistent stories about negative events, such as violence and other crime. Tetra Tech trained and supported nearly 300 community journalists on topics such as basic principles of journalism, safety and security issues, investigative reporting, social auditing, the local Access to Information Act, and reporting on climate change and disaster risk reduction. These citizen journalists then used radio, print, and digital media to disseminate their reporting.
Tetra Tech worked closely with key government counterparts to consolidate progress in preventing violence and crime, combatting corruption, and garnering support for the rule of law. The project supported the Jamaica Constabulary Force in the national rollout of the country’s community-based policing strategy, including partnering with its National Police Youth Club Council and local Police Youth Clubs to facilitate positive relationships between community members and police officers. Tetra Tech also collaborated with the Ministry of National Security and the Ministry of Education to support safe schools; with local government to promote community safety programs in the CRCs; and with the Jamaica Fire Brigade and the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management to support climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction efforts.
To improve community security by strengthening local governance and improving community policing, Tetra Tech promoted and supported community efforts to address the underlying causes of crime through various approaches. This included providing training and technical assistance to targeted communities and civil society organizations, along with a small grants program to give direct support to community groups, churches, and nongovernmental organizations. By focusing on increasing the capacity of communities to peacefully manage problems at the local level, the project ensured sustainability and buy-in from target communities.