Parents heartbroken over missing children...Scores still unaccounted for
Eric Maxwell's only child is among the 1,674 children who went missing last year, and with each passing day he gets even more depressed about the mysterious disappearance of his 12-year-old daughter, Tamoy.
According to the Ananda Alert Secretariat, while there has been a three per cent decline in the number of children reported missing when compared to the corresponding period in 2016, the whereabouts of 195 of Jamaica's children was still unknown at the end of last year.
Maxwell's daughter went missing on November 16, 2017. She was returning home from the corporate area school she attended, but decided to stop at one of her friend's house to change after she got drenched in the rain. It is reported that she left the friend's house and headed to the bus stop and has not been seen or heard from since.
"We were home waiting on her to come home and we didn't really see she come home back from school," the distressed father told The Sunday Gleaner.
He said that in addition to filing a missing person's report, he also went to her school to do his own investigation, but he is yet to receive any clues as to the whereabouts of his daughter, who is of a Pelican Parade, Kingston 11 address.
"I am not getting anywhere. The cops them calling me to ask me if I hear anything new, and I tell them no," Maxwell said.
Tamoy is of brown complexion, slim built and is about 105 centimetres (three feet, five inches) tall. Anyone knowing her whereabouts is asked to contact the Hunts Bay Police at 923-7111, Police 119 emergency number.
"From mi youth born, a me a take care of her. From she little bit. A this morning mi get up a cry. I am just seeing the picture alone and I am not seeing her," the distraught father lamented last week.
78 PER CENT ARE FEMALES
An estimated 78 per cent of those who went missing last year were females. According to the Secretariat, three of the children were found dead subsequent to being reported missing. They are Shineka Gray, Okeem Golding and Ariel Lawrence.
According to media reports, the partly decomposed body of Shineka Gray was found February last year. The former grade 10 Green Pond High School student was found in bushes in the community of Meadows of Irwin, St James three days after she was reported missing. It is reported that she was last seen heading to a taxi stand, after attending a funeral.
The mutilated remains of 13-year-old Okeem Golding was found on Chapel Street in Linstead, St Catherine last year July about a week after he was reported missing, while the body of 17-year-old Ariel Lawrence was found with chop wounds hours after she was seen boarding a taxi in Portsmouth, St Catherine.
*Sabrina James is happy that her daughter will not be numbered among the missing when the 2018 data is collated, as she was found two weeks after she was reported missing on February 5 this year.
The mother told The Sunday Gleaner that her 12-year-old daughter left the house one day and did not return. She did not see her again until February 19.
James said she went to file a report at the police station once she realised that her daughter was missing and she also started doing her own search. She later found out that her daughter was last seen in the company of her neighbour's brother who appears to be in his late 30s.
Her neighbour said he did not know where to find his brother as he had told him to leave his house.
"The gentleman's brother said that he can't take him and the whole heap of young girls, because when he brings them there, he would beat them and all kind of things, so he put him out. So he doesn't know where he is right now," the mother said.
The man's mother eventually took James' daughter to the police station after she found out that a search had been launched for her.
"The lady was denying that he was her son and she said she don't know the gentleman. So I asked her, how my daughter turn up at her yard?" the frustrated mother said.
"I asked her why she had my daughter for so long. I was so upset I want to fight her, but the police told me I couldn't do that."
RAPED BY CAPTORS
James' daughter told her that she was raped by the man and his two friends. She said her daughter had reached out to her abductor's female cousin for help, but she said she could not assist. The cousin later told the police that she thought the 12-year-old girl was the man's relative and so she did not intervene.
"My daughter said to me in front of the officers and the lady that she go to the lady and ask the lady if she can't call the police for her because she is tired of what they are doing to her and the lady turn to her and tell her that she cannot do anything," James said.
No arrests have been made.
James said her daughter has been receiving counselling.
What the child protection agency is doing
Chief executive officer of the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA), Rosalee Gage-Grey, said the Ananda Alert Secretariat, which falls under her remit, has embarked on a number of public education activities, which contributed to a three per cent decline in the number of missing children last year.
"Through the use of data provided by the JCF (Jamaica Constabulary Force), trends related to missing children and 'hot spot' areas across the island have been identified, which help in providing targeted intervention where it is most needed," she said.
Between January and December 2017, the Ananda Alert Secretariat recorded 1,674 cases of missing children. Of these cases, 1,476 have been accounted for.
Apart from the continued partnership with corporate Jamaica to disseminate information, an historic deal forged between the Secretariat and Facebook has helped to increase the reach of Ananda Alerts.
"This partnership boosted the recovery system so that in the event that a child is abducted, information is shared with Facebook and within 15 minutes it is seen in news feed of local users who are then able to share the alert with their contacts," she said.
In commemoration of International Missing Children's Day (May 25, 2018), CPFSA will be hosting an Ananda Alert National Missing Children's Forum, where children will be addressed by experts in the field of missing and exploited children.
"Through our various engagements in schools, we continue to reiterate the dangers associated with voluntarily leaving home without their parents/ guardians permission," Gage-Grey said.
[* Names changed to protect identity]