Blaine calls for special police units to tackle crime against children
Founder of lobby group Hear the Children’s Cry, Betty Ann Blaine is calling for what she describes as the “strategic separation of crime-fighting” for cases where children are the victims, as distinct from those where adults are victims.
At the same time, Blaine wants a dedicated missing children’s unit to be established within the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), given the number of children who go missing each month.
“Jamaica needs special police units for tackling the range of crimes against children,” Blaine, a children’s advocate, said in a statement to the media on Friday.
“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,” she stated.
Blaine said the country is in urgent need of such a unit. She said this was so, given the severity of the problem – over 120 children on an average are reported missing each month. More than 340 of those have been missing for over a year.
Blaine said: “We are talking about a team with extensive knowledge and grasp of the frightening dynamics of the challenge – from community pedophiles 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.”
And Blaine wants the team to be proactive in addressing the problem of children who run away from home. She argued that 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,” Blaine insisted.
And the children’s advocate is also calling for the implementation of a rigorous tracking system for convicted sex offenders who have been released from prisons both in Jamaica and overseas.
This particular call comes against the background of the recent abduction, rape and murder of at least two young girls – ages eight and 11.
Blaine said that even if the registry of convicted sex offenders is not open to the general public, it should be made available to critical groups that work with children. “This would help guard against the uninformed hiring of such perverts as teachers, counsellors, church workers, etc.,” Blaine said.
“We cannot continue to celebrate Child Month with this type of continuing violence against children – something must be done,” she added.