Hear the girls’ cry!
ARMED with six months of painful research, Betty-Ann Blaine yesterday made an impassioned plea to help families of teenaged girls held hostage by inner-city thugs, who impregnate or infect them with sexually transmitted diseases.
“It is increasingly difficult to deal with this problem of missing children within a broader climate of violence and self-governing enclaves – areas that are outside of the reach of even law enforcement,” said Blaine, the executive director of the lobby group, Hear the Children’s Cry.
Blaine made her stirring appeal at a press conference at the Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston, where she disclosed findings of a six-month research and counselling programme with families from which children had gone missing.
“There was one case where a mother’s 14-year-old daughter had gone missing. She knew where the child was but she said: ‘Miss Blaine, we can’t go for the child because if we ever go for her, the don is going to kill me’.
“In another case, a mother reported her child missing, knowing that the child really wasn’t. She (mother) had in fact sent her child to hide away with a relative in rural Jamaica because she said the don was ‘ready’ for her daughter. The missing report was really to make it appear bonafide,” added Blaine who could not hide her disgust.
Blaine said statistics from the National Intelligence Bureau, the Constabulary Communication Network, as well as other sources, revealed that of the 1,743 persons reported missing between January and September this year, 1,206 were children.
She said three of the children had been confirmed murdered while 537 have never been heard from again. She said 676 had returned home.
The Corporate Area and St Catherine account for most of the cases of missing children with 241 and 254, respectively. St James, Clarendon and Manchester, rounded off the top five parishes with 75, 67, and 60.
“This issue of missing children is a major problem and has reached epidemic proportions. Are these children being trafficked? Are there abduction rings operating here?” asked Blaine. “We are calling on the Government to immediately address the issue; set up special police units dedicated to investigate missing children cases, and have these units operating in each (police) division.”
Deputy Superintendent Paulette Green of the National Investigation Bureau immediately supported Blaine’s call for a special unit to investigate missing persons cases, saying that it would bring focus to the issue as the police were kept busy investigating more serious crimes. Deputy Superintendent But Herfa Beckford, head of the Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA), told the Observer in a telephone interview that while she had heard about occasions where girls were being held hostage by thugs, there was usually not enough evidence for the police to work with.
“People will say things but from a police perspective we cannot work off hearsay,” Beckford said.
The Jamaica Yellow Pages donated more than $2.5 million towards the research conducted by Blaine’s group.