JAMAICA’S MISSING CHILDREN

Almost 15 Per Cent Of Children Who Ran Away From Home, Or Were Abducted Last Year, Still Unaccounted For


More than 200 of the 1,510 children who were reported missing across the island last year were still unaccounted for at the start of this year, while 98 of the 1,674 reported missing in 2017 have not yet been found.

In addition, detectives from the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) are also probing hundreds of other cases of children missing without a trace for years.

Among those still missing from 2017 are 13-year-old Vashaun Grant, who disappeared from Seaview Gardens in St Andrew on December 6; 15-year-old Ceejay Cato of Norwood, St James, who went missing on November 30; Tasheena Salmon, 15, from Upper Ivy Road in St Andrew; Erica Lewis, 17, from Lighthouse Road in St Mary; and Lisa Willington, 17, from Maxfield Avenue in St Andrew.

Annadjae Roberts, acting head of the Ananda Alert Unit in the Child Protection and Family Services Agency, said despite their best efforts, police investigators have failed to track down these children, whose information have been plastered on Ananda Alert websites and other media for months.

“We are still trying to get their images out in the public space so that anyone with information can call us. Just help us with the investigation because maybe the police have no more leads, and we just need some information,” said Roberts.

“Many of these cases, there are no photographs of the children provided, and that makes looking for them really difficult. It is imperative that parents/guardians have recent pictures of their children, in the unfortunate event that something like this ever happens,” added Roberts, as she expressed fear that some of the missing children may have been killed.

Five Found Dead
Last year, five of the children reported missing were found dead. Three of the missing children were killed in 2017 and four in 2016.

According to Roberts, the police probing some of these cases would have exhausted guidelines in the missing persons’ investigation policy.

These include visiting the child’s home to make sure they are indeed missing; visiting the children’s schools; interviewing their parents, friends and neighbours to ensure no foul play has been committed; checking for items the children would have taken with them, and monitoring communication devices and social-media activities of the missing child.

So far, none of the measures have yielded any success, even as there have been breakthroughs in other cases in later months, or some missing children have just returned home with little or no explanation.

Roberts declined to speak to the depth of police investigations into long-standing or cold cases, but children’s advocate Betty Ann Blaine, founder of Hear the Children’s Cry, said she is not impressed by the level of attention the police give to reports of missing children.

“It is not as if police are out on the road looking for missing children. They are not. Every single month and every year for the last 10 years there are children who they describe as unaccounted for. The parents don’t know where the children are, they don’t know if they are dead or alive. We don’t know if they have bee trafficked,” said Blaine.

“The problem is that nobody is doing any investigation. It is not as if the police are going around looking for these children. It is not like in other countries where they call them ‘cold cases’ and still investigate them. In Jamaica, nobody looks for them,” charged Blaine.

“And so, if they were taken out of Jamaica, dead or alive, we don’t know, we don’t have the answers because nobody is looking for them.

“For a country our size to have more than 1,200 children missing every year is a crisis,” continued Blaine.

She argued that the number of children who go missing each year is even greater that the official reports as there are some parents who do not bother to report them missing.

1,510 Reported Missing
According to Ananda Alert, 1,510 children went missing last year, and of that number 1,290 returned home, while 215 remain missing.

Among those who were killed last year were nine-year-old Khadijah Saunders and Shanoya Wray, whose charred, naked remains were found metres from her home in Arnett Gardens in Kingston, the morning after she went missing.

Last year’s missing children official figure was about 10 per cent lower than 2017, but that is not being celebrated by Roberts and the team at Ananda Alert.

“Zero would be the ideal number but we welcome the reduction. We have had a number of engagement sessions and opportunities where we engage the children to find out from their perspective why so many of them are going missing,” said Roberts.

She noted that most of the missing cases last year came from St Catherine, and pointed out that in some areas one school accounted for multiple missing children.

corey.robinson@gleanerrjm.com

If your child goes missing

Make a report the minute you have made your reasonable checks and realise that you cannot account for your child. Parents also need to provide full information when they make their report, including a recent photo, what they were wearing, who they were with and any other information that can assist the police such as distinguishing marks and features.

The raw numbers

2018

Missing: 1510 (348 males, 1162 females)

Returned: 1290 (312 males, 978 females)

Still missing 215 (35 males, 180)

Deceased: 5 (1 male, 4 females)

2017

Missing: 1674

Returned: 1476

Still missing: 195*

Deceased: 3

2016

Missing: 1725

Returned: 1456

Still missing: 265

Deceased: 4

Some of these children returned home in 2018.

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