Human traffickers posing as Christians to trap children, senior cop warnsWednesday, July 28, 2021
BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS
A senior policeman is warning Jamaican parents and guardians to be more leery of kind strangers, noting that human traffickers have gone as far as to cloak themselves as ardent Christians in order to trap children.
“Traffickers don't have a profile. One of the matters we are dealing with currently overseas, the trafficker was a dedicated member of a church, so that goes to show that when persons come and offer help, if you are struggling with your children, [for example], you need to do some more investigations before you consent to sending those children overseas and to those persons — because once you do that you are sending them into human trafficking,” Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Anthony McLaughlin, who heads the constabulary's Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime Investigation Branch (C-TOC), said during an interview on the Jamaica Observer's sister radio station The Edge 105 FM on Monday morning.
McLaughlin said young girls, middle-aged women and young boys are typically the individuals targeted by traffickers as they fetch higher prices.
“They are more interested in teenage girls, down to about 12 years old, and young women under 30. The boys or the men are being affected as well, but in many instances it's the younger boys who they want, and they want them for domestic servitude or for labour,” he stated.
“A girl under 18 is more attractive, is more lucrative, especially for the commercial sex trade. For domestic servitude that age is very ripe for that sort of thing,” the C-TOC head said further.
According to SSP McLaughlin, children account for 60 per cent of the total number of people trafficked, often because of poverty-stricken mothers.
“Right as we speak there are two matters that we have under investigation where the mothers have trafficked their children. Because of hardships, sometimes these parents knowingly or unknowingly traffic their children. There is a matter that we have working now with an overseas counterpart, and it's the grandmother who trafficked that child, and that trafficker — from what we understand — has trafficked other children, so children are vulnerable,” the C-TOC head shared.
He, however, noted that while the police have been making some headway in cracking these cases, the reluctance of people to disclose evidence is a sticking point.
“Like all other investigations, sometimes the witnesses are reluctant to come forward. There are persons who will know things and they are afraid sometimes to come forward and say anything to the police, because these trafficking in persons cases sometimes are accompanied with violence,” McLaughlin noted.
The C-TOC head is assuring that such individuals are not left to fend for themselves.
“This is where the shelter comes in. We have a shelter where, if victims are rescued and they have a security concern, then they are housed at the shelter,” he explained.
In the meantime, he said the police are continuing their effort to educate the public to further drive investigations and, ultimately, convictions.
“A lot more needs to be done and we are using this period to see if we can reach some more people in terms of education,” he said.
July 30 each year is marked as World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. This year's theme is 'Victims' Voices Lead the Way'.
Since the establishment of the dedicated unit within C-TOC in 2006, which deals with the investigation of human trafficking, 108 individuals have been rescued with eight convictions.
“We have 16 matters before the court as we speak with 24 traffickers, and we are expecting that at the end of the trials we will be getting some good results. We continue to educate the public as it relates to trafficking in persons, what it is that they are to look for, and how they can report to the police so the matter can be investigated,” McLaughlin said.
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