In a novel initiative of its kind, Ambala-Panchkula commissioner of police OP Singh held the first meeting with first-time offenders at Panchkula Police Lines in Sector 26 on Tuesday. The interaction was part of the commissionerate’s ambitious ‘first-time offenders’ rehabilitation programme for youth at risk. About 30 young people charged with petty crimes were identified for the first phase.
“The idea is to initially engage them in team games like volleyball, give them marketable skills and enroll them in government employment guarantee schemes so that they can earn their livelihood through legitimate means,” Singh said.
Most of the 70 youngsters who attended the interaction had been charged with various offences and were out on bail. Some of them admitted they had committed a crime but said they now wanted to lead a normal life, though a few claimed they had been framed. Singh asked police officials to look into the matter.
A teenager said he had beaten up someone who was teasing his friend’s sister and is now facing trial for the offence. Another said he got involved in a fight over hurling a stone at a dog. One participant said he got into trouble after he bought a mobile phone from his neighbour who had reportedly snatched it from someone.
A young mother came and told Singh her son was once involved in a case of snatching which was closed but cops still kept visiting their home, adding her landlord has asked them to vacate the house. To which Singh said: “Youngsters participating in the programme will be spared the ordeal of police checks at their homes for possible criminal activities for the next three months. If they continue to stay away from crime and disruptive behavior, this period will be extended.”
There was a youngster who was facing trial for trying to run away with Rs 4 lakh he had snatched from a person at a bank in Barwala. He told Singh he wanted to become a bouncer. Singh responded by saying: “Young offenders are generally energetic and enterprising and they can plan their action for a particular outcome. Such skills can also help them lead a normal life if they learn to be law abiding and not harm others. Taking part in sports activities will help them experience the joy of being competitive. Skill development programmes will help them in finding jobs or be self-employed.”
The police force is also trying to rope in various companies to sponsor weekend basic league matches between teams consisting of identified youngsters at risk.