Wed | Aug 16, 2017

Child killers on the loose - Police struggle to find murderers in St Andrew South Division

Published:Sunday | May 28, 2017 | 5:00 AM
Children at play in the Corporate Area communty of Waterhouse, where four of Jamaica's youngest were killed between 2011 and 2015.
Head of the St Andrew South Police Division Superintendent Arthur Brown (left) and Assistant Superintendent Gordon Ellison discussing the attacks on children in the division over the 2011 to 2015 period.
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There seems to be nowhere safe for the scores of children living in the killing fields that make up the 22 communities that fall in the St Andrew South Police Division, and many of the child murderers have so far escaped justice.

At least 21 children were killed in the police division between 2011 and 2014, and the latest report from the Jamaica Crime Observatory Integrated Crime and Violence Information System (JCO-ICVIS) shows that not even homes and schools were safe.

The report shows that 76 per cent or 16 of the children were killed on the streets or highways, two were killed in open lots, while three children were murdered at a school, home and a bar.

The gritty community of Waterhouse accounted for the most child murders in any one community in the division, with four children killed there over the five-year period. Three children were killed over the period in the nearby Cockburn Gardens.

Assistant Superintendent of Police attached to the Hunts Bay Police Station, Gordon Ellison, said some of these cases might never be closed as even though persons in the communities might know who the child murderers are, they are not coming forward with the information.

"A lot of these cases might never go before the courts because they are not giving us statements into the matter," said Ellison.

"There is the fear factor because the court system is not necessarily held in isolation, so the person knows that one fine day, they will have to stand as a witness and everybody will see publicly.

"So the greater fear is not actually coming to the police, but when the police initiate the process and litigation should go through and the person has to stand before the nation, and there is also the informer culture," added Ellison.

Head of the St Andrew South Police Division, Superintendent Arthur Brown, said when one examines the time of day these children are being killed, it suggests there is something wrong with how they are being supervised.

 

DEADLY NIGHTS

 

According to the JCO-ICVIS data, midnight to 5:59 a.m. saw the highest number of murders in the division, with eight of the 21 taking place in that time frame. Six of the children were killed between 6 a.m. and 11:59 a.m. while a further six were killed between 6 p.m. and 11:59 p.m.

"Between 12 a.m. and 5:59 a.m., we have eight kids being murdered. There is no way they ought to be on the road in a public space at that time, so this speaks to the lack of proper parenting," said Brown.

That is a view shared by president of the Waterhouse Community Development Benevolent Society, Christopher Constantine, who is calling for more emphasis to be placed on preventive measures.

"The children need more supervision and more organised distraction, structured supervised activities, and vigilant parents and community members to be engaged, to be involved, and see the children as their children," said Constantine.

But Pastor Winston Jackson, who heads the Penwood Church of Christ located in Waterhouse, believes the children are oftentimes not the targets of the attacks.

"Usually, it is their parents who are the targets, but there is a mentality - not only in this community, but in Jamaica - where sometimes 'If you can't catch Quaco, yu catch him shut'," said Jackson.

"And this is what is happening in some cases. These guys try to punish who they want by striking out at those close to them," added Jackson.

The JCO-ICVIS report covered five parishes between 2011 and 2014, with five additional parishes included in 2015.

ryon.jones@gleanerjm.com