An act by Ernest Constantine, a 20-year-old farmer, captured his full attention as he was thanked and rewarded for returning a bag of cash to its rightful owner earlier this month.
On May 10, Constantine found a bag containing $7,000 near his home in Paramin. He returned the money to his neighbor Cornelius Campbell, who is also a farmer.
The money was intended for Campbell to pay his employees.
At a ceremony at Angostura’s house in Laventille on Friday, National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds praised Constantine for his honesty and said such gestures were lacking in society.
Recalling a recent incident where he saved a contractor from being beaten by Maraval employees for unpaid wages, Hinds said a similar situation could have developed had Constantine not returned the money.
He added that serious crimes like muggings and murders can quickly stem from disagreements and misunderstandings and called on other young people to follow Constantine’s example of service before themselves.
“Mr. Cornelius Campbell could easily have found himself in the same situation.
“His employees probably wouldn’t have believed his story and God knows, and that’s why Mr (McDonald) Jacob came here today as head of the TT Police Department, the premier enforcement agency of the law in Trinidad and Tobago, to talk with young people through TT, because many situations like this lead to very serious crimes, including murder.
“So, Mr. Constantine, your compassion, your dignity, your honesty may have prevented a lot of things that could have ended up on the table of Mr. Jacob, the children and other people.”
Acting Police Commissioner Jacob also thanked Constantine for returning the money.
He added that such gestures reassured the public, as it showed a willingness among young people to help others.
He pointed to programs that focus on teaching life skills, conflict resolution and anger management as effective anti-crime strategies to prevent young people from entering a life of crime.
Jacob also said the police are often called upon to deal with crime, but he hopes other public and private sector institutions can join in the fight against crime before it gets out of hand.
“The police are the law enforcement agency responsible for enforcing the law, but crime is a social construct. People socialize, it’s learned behavior, and it starts with our main institution, the family. But there are several others (institutions) that can be placed within our society, although there may be spillovers into dysfunctional homes.
“I think over the years some of those buffers, institutions of the church, of the workplace, of the schools, have been weakened a bit, so we need to strengthen them.”
Constantine lives alone without electricity. FT Farfan gave him a generator and weedkiller and the House of Angostura donated a cooler and two months’ worth of groceries.
Speaking to reporters after the ceremony, Constantin said he was happy to be recognized, but insisted he was also just happy to be able to help his neighbour.