Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Fewer missing kids - Disappearances on the decline; parents urged to have recent images of children

Published:Monday | April 10, 2017 | 4:00 AMSyranno Baines
Nathalee Ferguson, head of the Ananda Alert Secretariat.

Head of the Ananda Alert Secretariat Nathalee Ferguson is indicating that there has been a noticeable decline in the number of children missing in recent years, with 2016 reflecting an 11 per cent drop in the number of reported cases over the corresponding period for 2015.

Similarly, the number of children reported missing and found dead also saw a 50 per cent decrease in 2016 when compared to 2015.

Ferguson made the disclosure during a Gleaner Editors' Forum on children's issues, held last Thursday at the newspaper's North Street, Kingston, offices as she sought to update the public and stakeholders on developments regarding missing minors.

Statistics sourced from the Missing Person Monitoring Unit of the Jamaica Constabulary Force have shown that in 2014, 1,984 children were reported missing; 1,941 in 2015, and 1,725 in 2016.

Children reported missing and found dead totalled seven in 2014; eight in 2015; and four in 2016.

"Not all children that are missing have, in fact, been abducted, nor is there any data to suggest that they have been trafficked. The majority of cases are children who would have run away. We're aware that children don't necessarily run away from happy homes, so in terms of our public-education efforts, we're looking to air for our children the alternatives to running away," said Ferguson.

In stating that nine of 10 missing children consistently return home willingly or are recovered, Ferguson said that stakeholder partnership is essential to curbing the practice.

"We partner to ensure that those children who are recovered or return on their own are provided with psychosocial intervention, counselling, or other such services to avoid repeat occurrences as we do have children that habitually run away."

With social media peeking at new heights globally, the Ananda Alert Secretariat has secured a rare collaboration with Facebook, effective May 1, whereby all local users will receive automatic news feeds regarding urgent cases of missing children.

Speaking on the role of parents in recovering missing children, Ferguson said that a lack of recent, high-quality images to make the public visually aware is cause for major concern.

"The majority of the reports received by the police come without a photograph or one of poor quality. We're trying to encourage public assistance, and if you can't visually make out a child, you can't blame someone for not knowing that the child was missing."

She added: "We're trying as best as possible to inform parents that should something as unfortunate as this occur, we're able to assist, but you not having the image hinders our ability to do so."

Seventy-six per cent of children reported missing between January and December 2016 were girls.

syranno.baines@gleanerjm.com