Killing our kids - At least 24 children murdered across the island since the start of the year
The numbing, cold-blooded murder of three teenagers in the Monymusk Housing Scheme in Clarendon last Wednesday has again forced the nation to focus on the brutal acts being committed against some of the most vulnerable in the society.
A little over a month into 2015, official data revealed that 15 children had been killed in Jamaica since the start of this year. Now, less than two months later, police sources are reporting that at least 30 children have been killed across the island since January.
The sources further say up to Friday the official death toll was 312 since the start of this year, an 11 per cent jump above the 288 recorded for the corresponding period last year.
"My heart is full of sadness that such wickedness has become part of the Jamaican reality," declared Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller as she responded to the latest heartless act against Jamaica's children.
"The long arm of the law must prevail in this and other incidence of murder, especially those involving the nation's children," was the cry from Opposition Leader Andrew Holness.
Head of the Criminal Investigation Branch, Assistant Commissioner Ealan Powell, has pointed to reprisals, sexual molestation and gang-related incidents as among the reasons behind the killing of some of the nation's children.
Powell told The Sunday Gleaner that by any measure, as a nation we are failing the young ones.
According to Powell, while a number of teenagers are being monitored by the police, based on intelligence that they are involved in gang activities, the majority of the children killed were innocent victims.
"We have failed those who have fell victims to crime, because as a nation we have failed to protect them. Some of these children are observed out on the road, in the hours of the night and most times the parents don't know where they are. They are not being monitored properly," declared Powell.
He argued that some of these parents are so young themselves, they are not capable of protecting, providing for, or even monitoring their children.
The senior cop charged that State agencies responsible for dealing with non-criminal matters involving children are being stretched because of the demand.
"Sometimes I believe that these agencies are overwhelmed. All some of these parents do is delegate the responsibility of their children to the teachers, social workers and everybody else, and they are left free to do whatever," said Powell.
He explained that in these circumstances, the child is often left on his own to fend for himself.
"If it was not for the intervention of the CDA, the Office of the Children's' Advocate and the police, it would have been 10 times worse, because a lot of the programmes by the police, especially the youth clubs and school programmes, have curtailed the negative activities of these youngsters," added Powell.
He pointed to poor parenting, social conditions and lack of opportunities as the factors driving some young Jamaicans into a life of crime.
"We are failing to capture the minds of our young people. We need to give them an alternative to crime. I don't think we are doing enough. The social agencies are doing a lot, but because we are failing, the criminals or gang members are filling that vacuum, providing for them, and that is where our young people are going," said Powell.
Pointing to the deplorable social conditions in a rural community, where a police party visited recently, Powell described a situation where an eight year-old was left exposed.
"It was a case where the mother, step-father, an adult friend, and the little girl were sharing a one room. There were two beds in the room, only a curtain separated them. This pose the risk of sexual molestation and perhaps pregnancy and if the man does not accept the pregnancy he might killed the child. So, some parents are over exposing their children and it must be stopped," warns Powell.
The assistant commissioner charged that all some of these parents do is delegate the responsibility of their children to teachers, social workers and everybody else.
In the meantime head of the Counter Terrorism and Organise Crime Branch, Assistant Commissioner Devon Watkis, highlighted that the 14-35 age group is the most vulnerable to crime in Jamaica.
Responding to allegations that the criminal underworld is busy recruiting teenagers to carry out acts of violence, Watkis said while he has heard the argument, the police are yet to determine if this is a fact.
"If we continue to kill our children, not only in Jamaica, but in the region, then our future looks dark, because these are the leaders of tomorrow," warned Watkis.