Child thugs a worrying trend

POLICE Commissioner Major General Antony Anderson on Tuesday described as a worrying trend the number of children being brought to book for serious crimes.

Anderson, who was speaking during his monthly press briefing, 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. There were 256 charges for breaches of the Firearms Act, 175 for break-ins, 89 cases of robbery, and 56 for aggravated assault.

Anderson said collective action is needed to determine how to save child perpetrators.

“When we see children being perpetrators of major crimes, some concerns begin to emerge. Most of the perpetrators in this category are between 15 and 17 years old. Anderson believes that collective action from Jamaicans is the only answer to solving the crisis. If we do not act collectively, these individuals are going into an early career of violence and crime. We have to decide how we are going to save them,” Anderson said.

He pointed out that the police engage in various early intervention strategies through the community safety and security branch and through entities like police youth clubs, but a more serious and collective approach will have to be taken.

“We are working closely with the Ministry of Education; however, we must take this matter more seriously. The pandemic of violence is infecting our children. It is important that all institutions of society be vigilant and engage in early surveillance and monitoring in homes and schools so that we can identify the early signs of violent tendencies before they become a law enforcement problem,” he said.

Betty-Ann Blaine, founder of child advocacy and support group Hear the Children’s Cry, who spoke with the Jamaica Observer following the press briefing, said she is not surprised by the revelation.

“We at Hear the Children’s Cry work with a lot of parents, young people, children who were reported missing, and the ones who go missing and come back sometimes after long periods of time. These are children that typically come from dysfunctional families. They don’t get along with parents or guardians or whomever they live with. Many of them believe that the grass is greener on the other side and they go with friends, peers, and many of them are lured by adult males,” Blaine said.

She recommended that in-depth studies and research be carried out to get to the root causes of so many children perpetuating serious crimes.

“Having put out these statistics, there are more questions than answers. If we are serious about the youth of Jamaica and if we are serious about crimes being committed by the youth, we will have to focus on family life. We need to be doing case studies on these youth. Maybe this is where The University of the West Indies and other research centres could delve into this,” Blaine argued.

“One of the things we have not done is research and studies on juvenile delinquency, especially children who murder children. What do we know about them? What do we know about their parents and families? Where are these children now? There is a lot we don’t know about what drives a teenager to commit a serious crime. What we do know is that children live what they learn.

“They are exposed to violence, some of them from the youngest ages. Many of them live in communities where violence is a daily occurrence and they are fed on a steady diet of violence. They see it all around and they, too, engage in it because it is what they are accustomed to. I am curious whether the commissioner of police has any idea of how we can address this very serious problem,” Blaine said.

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