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New policy coming to stop runaways

Published:Saturday | January 2, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Nadisha Hunter, Gleaner Writer

The police are looking forward to the implementation of a new policy aimed at stemming the increasing numbers of missing children across the island.

Deputy Superintendent of Police Sonia James-Thompson of the Constabulary Communication Network (CCN) says the law enforcers will be carrying out community profiles in areas where cases of runaways are most rampant.

"We realised that the children come from certain communities so we will be starting a community profile which will be done by the different departments in the organisation," James-Thompson said.

Among the areas that will be targeted are Olympic Gardens, south St Andrew and sections of St Catherine.

Up to September this year, 1,206 children had been reported missing. Of that figure, 676 have returned home while three have died.

Increasing numbers

The heartbreaking numbers for this nine-month period far outstrip the 960 children who disappeared during 2008, a year when the nation was thrown into panic over missing youth.

In addition, 15 children who were reported missing from their homes between November and December have since returned.

Information from the CCN is that one of the missing children was placed in state care due to the frequency with which she carried out the act.

The child, who is only 13, ran away from home more than 16 times.

In the 15 cases, no parents were arrested.

James-Thompson said the most prevalent reasons for children going missing are to escape punishment from parents, human trafficking, and pregnancy.

She also added that some of these children left home simply because they did not want to be with their families. Those children have made contact to assure their families they were safe.

Investigation urged

In the meantime, Children's Advocate Mary Clarke maintained her plea to the authorities, that the homes of the children who have gone missing should be thoroughly investigated.

"If investigations prove that the parents are responsible, they must be charged, especially if it's a case of abuse," she said.

Clarke encouraged parents to make children their priority and to seek help if the need exists.