Blaine wants special police unit to take on crimes against children

Friday, May 10, 2019

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THE lobby group Hear The Children's Cry has called for the establishment of a special police unit for tackling crimes against children.

“We have been advocating for this for years, but with the current epidemic of heinous crimes against Jamaican children, it is even more urgently needed than ever today,” said child advocate and Hear The Children's Cry founder Betty Ann Blaine.

“Our nation is also in urgent need of a dedicated Missing Children's Unit in the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), given the severity of the problem,” added Blaine in a news release.

She said more than 120 children, on an average, are reported missing every month. We are talking about [a team] with extensive knowledge and grasp of the frightening dynamics of the challenge —from community paedophiles to national and international traffickers, from poor parenting skills to the hundreds of our families which are in crisis. A team which also has the skills and compassion to deal with children, especially those who have been traumatised by violent criminals — some of whom the children knew and trusted.

“This team should also be proactive in addressing the problem of children who run away from home. It is a commonly held fallacy that the problem of missing children is not such a great crisis, because many of these children are “only runaways”. The fact is that the whole challenge of runaway children should be seen as a red flag in itself. A child who runs away from home is one who is in crisis; his or her family is in crisis, and by extension the very social fabric of our nation is in crisis when we have hundreds of our youngsters running away. This is not an 'also ran' problem, it is a major challenge and it needs to be addressed without delay.”

“We are also calling for the implementation of a rigorous tracking system for convicted sex offenders who have been released from prisons both here and abroad. It was reported in the media that one of the persons in custody for the recent murder of an eleven-year-old in Hanover is a deportee. This is not a new call, and it is one which has raised concerns about the safety of such offenders in the current violence-prone atmosphere in this country. However, such a registry of convicted sex offenders, even if not open to the general public, should very definitely be available to critical groups that work with children — which would help guard against the uninformed hiring of such perverts as teachers, counsellors, church workers, etc,” Blaine said in a release yesterday.

The country, she said, cannot continue to celebrate Child Month with the type of violence against children. “Something must be done!”

Blaine and her team at Hear The Children's Cry operate a dynamic combination of preventive and remedial programmes — a strong child advocacy outreach, child safety instruction in schools, parenting education, support for families of missing children and formerly missing children, telephone and in-home counselling, strategic family support, local and international networking on missing children and other critical child/family issues.

Over the years, valuable support has come from Yello, which supports the Missing Children's Support Programme; Supreme Ventures Ltd, sponsor of the Missing Children's Family & Community Social Work Programme; Lasco; Sandals Foundation, the British High Commission, FLOW and Digicel.

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