Social anthropologist Dr Herbert Gayle (right) says there is a spreadsheet of violence against children, as they are being recruited as operatives of gangs. He was speaking at Wednesday's Anti-gang Week town hall at the Office of the Commissioner of Police in Kingston. Director for Safety and Security in Schools Unit at the Ministry of Education and Youth Richard Troupe looks on.

SOCIAL anthropologist Dr Herbert Gayle and Detective Inspector Clifton Green have called for mechanisms to slow the recruitment of children by criminals.

Gayle and Green were among six panellists at an Anti-gang Week town hall meeting held under the theme, 'Leggo de gang…Lift up Jamaica' on Wednesday. The initiative, which is a joint effort of the Jamaica Constabulary Force and the Ministry of Education and Youth, was aimed at addressing issues of gangs, criminal organisation and children involved in violent crimes.

According to Gayle, there is a lot of work needed to reduce "children as operatives in crime" because they are targeted to trigger war and less suspected of committing crimes.

He further pointed to boys and girls playing different roles in crime, based on socio-economic conditions.

Sub-officer in charge of National Strategic Anti-gang Unit Detective Inspector Clifton Green says he is aware of co-opting of juveniles by criminals in recent times.

"One activity we have to have in our heads, if we are talking about children, is to do the violence audit that helps us identify these homes and begin to work through these homes because when you rescue these households in any country, the murder rate drops because that is the belly of your violence," he said.

"If you open a spreadsheet in front of you, let's start with girls, the worst job a girl gets to do is a sleeper. She is sent to cross a border into another group to sleep with somebody, thus reducing that person's ability to act and making that person vulnerable. The second one is an importee which means that this person is responsible for housing the criminal and the next tier is a gun bag, then the next tier is a sentinel which means they stay on the corners and so forth. You are looking at girls who neurobiologically don't want to be involved but an environment puts them within the hierarchy of operation," he said.

He stressed that during his work in 17 countries, he has found 30 girls under age 18 who are war strategists and operate as "the brain child behind mayhem and violence".

"It means it is very rare but we still have to pay attention to it. These things happen because we have some patriarchal and chauvinistic ideas of women that say women are the docile creatures who walk around, don't trouble nobody, have no brain," he said.

Meanwhile, speaking about how boys are chosen for crime, he said, "You have the enforcers which is the most problematic group, then you have the gun bags, then you have the sentinels, and then those who help to do the recruitment in schools and other areas," said Gayle.

Gayle added that boys and girls go through six tiers of problems which stem from problems in the home.

"When you take all of these into consideration, the first thing that hits you is the parent frame of these boys and girls because the parents are unemployed, and if the parents are unemployed, the boy drops out of school and then the mother or aunt or whoever is responsible has to do a second job or engage in prostitution or sex work. The fourth tier, the girl is sent to a cousin, aunt or somebody and employed in what we called human trafficking or modern-day slaving and then the fifth one is when the daughter is being picked, when the mother literally says to her this is where you have to go," he explained.

"When you take all of that you begin to see in front of you what we call the ontological spreadsheet of violence against children. The intervention is not based on the philosophy that a child can't be poor, it's the family that is poor," he said, noting that only 10 per cent of households in violent communities are headed by children causing extreme chaos.

Meanwhile, Green, who is a sub-officer in charge of National Strategic Anti Gang Unit, noted that while he has not seen any overwhelming cases of children being members of gangs, it is still cause for concern.

" We have actually seen two in our investigations, the co-opting of juveniles by the criminal organisations to help them supplement their activities. We have seen the persons transporting weapons, on behalf of the groups, acting as lookouts," said Green.

"Up to this morning [Wednesday], I had a conversation with someone who is indicating that in a particular community, the youngsters are put forward by a particular gang leader for the purpose of early warning systems and so on," he added.

Green encouraged those who have the role to manage the targeted youngsters to ensure that they are guided away from holding corners.

"If we continue to allow these youngsters to be exposed, in a few years from now we won't be able to even go to our homes. We have to keep the efforts up. I am appealing to persons in those communities that if you allow these things to fester, and having the younger ones participate in these processes, the value of your properties, condition of life, cost of living will be side effects of what we get when we allow them to operate in our spaces." he said.

In a press briefing earlier this month, Police Commissioner Major General Antony Anderson said of the 875 charges laid against children from 2019, as at November 1 this year, 79 were for murder, 66 for shooting, and 175 for rape.

Additionally, he said there were 256 charges for breaches of the Firearms Act, 175 for break-ins, 89 cases of robbery, and 56 for aggravated assault.

BY BRITTNY HUTCHINSON Observer staff reporter

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