Fri | Sep 22, 2017

Horror Zone! - 22 communities in the St Andrew South Police Division were the most dangerous places for children between 2011 and 2015

Published:Sunday | May 21, 2017 | 5:00 AMRyon Jones
These youngsters pay close attention as the police process another murder scene.

For scores of Jamaica's children, life is brutish, nasty and short. It gets worse for those children living in the communities which are policed by the men and women from the St Andrew South Police Division, as those were the most dangerous areas for the kids in the five-year period from 2011 to 2015.

The 2016 data are not yet available, but over the previous five years, the division, which includes communities such as Payne Land, Seaview, Waterhouse, Maverley, Duhaney Park, Olympic Gardens and sections of Maxfield Avenue, has recorded the highest number of sexual assaults against children and child murders.

Data compiled by the Jamaica Crime Observatory Integrated Crime and Violence Information System (JCO-ICVIS) showed that in 2015, Kingston and St Andrew recorded the highest number of child sexual assaults (211) and child murders (18) across 10 parishes for that year, with most of those occurring in the St Andrew South Police Division.

Kingston and St Andrew also had the dubious distinction of the most cases of child sexual assaults (1,163) and child murders (54) for the 2011-2014 period when data were gathered from only five parishes. Again St Andrew South led the way. There were 60 reported cases of child rape in the Three Miles area of the division alone.

The division also recorded the highest number of child murders over the 2011-2015 period, with 29 per cent (21) of the 72 KSA child murders.

A total of 22 communities and three main roads were recorded across three Social Development Commission developmental areas within the division: Three Miles, Half-Way Tree and Duhaney Park.

Head of the St Andrew South Police Division, Superintendent Arthur Brown, last week described the number of child sexual assaults and child murders in the area under his command as "frightening".

"This is of serious concern to the police in St Andrew South, as the numbers are frightening," Brown told The Sunday Gleaner. "We can't afford for our children to be ravaged like that."

For Rosalee Gage-Grey, chief executive officer of the Child Development Agency, which forms part of the JCO-ICVIS technical committee, the construct of the communities within the St Andrew South Police Division contributes to the level of child sexual assault incidents.

"It is the population and the density with people living very close to each other, especially in the inner-city communities, and the dynamics of what happens in a big yard, for example," said Gage-Grey.

"But we understand that it is happening right across the social strata. It is not just for the lower levels, although most of that is what is reported," added Gage-Grey.

Gage-Grey argued that the number of children murdered is a reflection of the level of violence in the society which requires serious work on the ground; not just in the St Andrew South Police Division.

"There needs to be some serious on-the-ground community work looking at the social fabric of the society and how is it that people are managing and surviving on the ground.

"How we parent, how we socialise our children and how we ensure their protection; we have to treat it as a serious issue," said Gage-Grey.

The veteran cop who heads the division agrees with Gage-Grey on the approach needed, and says he and his team intend to collaborate with other stakeholders to tackle the problem.

"What we will be doing is to work with the parents and the children in the various communities in St Andrew South to have a reduction or an elimination of these incidents of sexual offences and murders within the division," said Brown.

The JCO-ICVIS was validated by the Jamaica Constabulary Force, the Ministry of Health, the Registrar General's Department and the Forensic Science Laboratory for all five years, with the exception of 2015 when due to technical difficulties no figures were provided by the health ministry.

ryon.jones@gleanerjm.com