LETTER OF THE DAY: Energise Ananda Alert system
The Editor, Sir:
Since the Ananda Alert (response to a missing child report) was launched last year, I've noticed a gradual decline in the timely publishing and disseminating of information on missing children. For a case in point, look at the website www.anandaalertjm.com. The website is not current with the latest photographs and biographical information on missing children. The website needs a makeover.
There is nothing more valuable to us than our children and loved ones because they are the future of Jamaica and the world. So, when a young child is missing from his or her family, we must commit all of our resources, time and talent to making everyone aware of this loss and the need for the child to be returned to his or her family safely.
With a significant increase in the number of missing children in Jamaica, it is high time the Government realise the seriousness of this major crisis. It seems the Government and police don't have sufficient data or information about these children. It raises the questions of how many of them were kidnapped; and if they are in the hands of human traffickers or paedophiles. The staggering incidents of child abuse, sexual assaults and sexual predatory activities, combined with familial strain, creates enough reason to send out a call to action.
Missing children's unit
The first area that should be looked at by the Government is setting up a missing children's unit in the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) to combat this major crisis. The Government must strengthen the training and equipping of the JCF with the technology it needs to protect our children. The police unit would be the primary source of information, and have supporting liaison mechanisms across the country to tackle the problem in a coordinated manner. Preparing in advance makes all the difference in the world. Time is the most important element in finding a missing child and capturing the perpetrator.
Second, the Government must establish a civilian clearing house to focus on managing the Ananda Alert secondary-distribution system. Under the direction of the JCF, the agency would operate as a clearing house for information on missing children. The programme should be designed to collect, store, and disseminate information on missing children. The clearing house would be the liaison among citizens, private organisations, and law-enforcement agencies regarding missing children information. The clearing house could also make flyers, etc, available at volunteer centres, various online agencies and the missing children's website.
This year's Labour Day activities will be under the theme 'Our Children ... Show Them We Care'.
As we look ahead to Labour Day, we are reminded of Ananda Dean and the missing children's alert system that bears her name. The Ananda Alert is relevant and useful. Let us seek to energise and to use new technologies to enhance its capabilities.
I am, etc.,