Mon | Nov 12, 2018

Thieves preying on schools, students

Published:Thursday | November 27, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Jodi-ann Gilpin, Gleaner Writer

At least three students who were recipients of the government's Tablets in Schools initiative have been robbed of the devices at gunpoint.

Speaking with The Gleaner, national coordinator of the Safe Schools Programme, Sergeant Coleridge Minto, revealed that two of the incidents took place in Kingston while the other occurred in Montego Bay, St James.

He said though the devices have not yet been recovered, the police were doing investigations.

"It's very sad that even as we try to improve the development of our schools, we still have persons who will try to corrupt the system. We are following some leads, however, and we are top of it. In one case, we have been able to locate one person in terms of their location and some other details," he said.

"The incidents did not take place on the school compound, so I wouldn't want to say that students are being targeted, but the fact that persons are aware of the programme might be a factor. All three students have returned to school, however, and we addressing it," he said.

Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining Phillip Paulwell said the ministry is aware of one incident. He was however quick to point out that he would not be discouraged.

"It's quite unfortunate that students are being targeted in this manner, the ministry, however, will not be daunted. The police is investigating and we will find them," he charged.

"For the most part, we have been receiving positive feedback. Schools have been reporting that students' participation have improved and the overall learning attitude has changed, so we will not stop because I am confident that this initiative (Tablets in Schools) is for the greater good," Paulwell told The Gleaner.

In the meantime, Minto told The Gleaner that 316 schools across the island have been robbed between the period of January 2012 and January 2014.

This, for him, is a reflection of the moral breakdown in the country.

Targets for Criminals

"The last three years are most worrying because our schools are becoming target points for criminals. We are presently conducting a number of security audits at a number of the schools to determine the vulnerable points and where the ministry can assist, but we must address these incidents urgently," he declared.

He noted that schools in the parishes of Manchester and St Elizabeth have had the most incidents, but was quick to add that there is a general problem.

"There are some areas that will stand out, but this is an islandwide problem. I, personally, have been conducting audits in a number of schools, and many of them have invested millions in security; state-of-the-art cameras, fencing and other equipment, however, they still get robbed," Minto lamented.

The sergeant made an appeal to citizens to get involved and assist the police in whatever way possible.

"The neighbourhood watches, PTAs (Parent-Teacher Association) and other stakeholders will have to get involved in the development of schools in their areas. People will have to become responsible and assist schools to become an environment that is free of threat and crime," he told The Gleaner.

"Staff and students are affected from all angles when these incidents occur. We, therefore, will have to step up to the plate and see how we can protect students and staff from these hoodlums. We have to find a way to bring the numbers down and eradicate these incidents," he asserted.