Fix family life!

Lack of values blamed for high crime

BY RACQUEL PORTER
Observer staff reporter
porterr@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, October 23, 2017

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AS the Holness Administration struggles to find an effective crime-fighting strategy to stem the country's spiralling crime rate, Hear the Children's Cry founder Betty Ann Blaine contends that the lack of wholesome family values is Jamaica's problem, and the Government should push to address this in seeking the fix for crime.

Blaine suggested yesterday that the Government should invest in reconstructing family life, even as Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced the second zone of special operations in Denham Town, Kingston, last week, aimed at ferreting out criminals in order to tackle increased crime and volatility.

“At the root of Jamaica's problem is family life. Children are being raised in families with only single mothers. Many of the boys don't know their fathers, [and they are] very angry about that. Many of them drop out of school at an early age, they get into criminality, and it is a vicious cycle,” Blaine said.

She was speaking at her advocacy organisation's 15th anniversary thanksgiving service at Power of Faith Ministries in Portmore, St Catherine.

Blaine argued that the majority of the people who are involved in criminal activities were born to parents in communities with severe social and economic challenges.

“Many of the young men who are now 'shooters' and gunmen are young men born to parents in communities where they experience violence against them from they are very young. As a result they have grown up very hard, without the love and the compassion that children need. If children were to be born in this country to two parents who really want them and plan for them, who love them, nurture them — and I am not talking about living in rich environments at all — we should get a different result in Jamaica,” Blaine said.

Just two weeks ago head of Police Area One, Assistant Commissioner Donovan Graham, expressed alarm at the large number of children between the ages of 12 and 18 who have been arrested for serious crimes in the last two years.

The crimes, he said, were category one, include murder, shooting, rape, robbery, larceny, and aggravated assault.

Graham said between September 2015 and the end of September this year, 1,400 children committed serious crimes. During this time, he said, 192 children were arrested for murder, 232 for rape, 152 for shooting, 364 for robbery, and 256 for breaking and entering.

Boys accounted for the lion's share of the arrests, said the ACP, who was speaking at an installation ceremony of the Kiwanis Club of Montego Bay.

“We see where our children are at the centre of many policing issues, especially around crime and violence. We have seen where they are involved in violent crimes and, in many instances, they're abused and continue to be victims of crime,” he bemoaned.

Meanwhile, Blaine said she wasn't surprised by these figures and stated that the numbers could be higher.

“What we have discovered is that many of these children from the earliest age, from the youngest age, usually from they are toddlers, many of them are born and raised in very, very harsh environments in very difficult households and communities, and from the youngest age they don't experience the kind of nurturing love and attention that children need. Actually, in many cases it is the opposite — they are abused from they are toddlers, they are abused verbally everyday, some of them are abused physically, many of them sexually, and these children just become hardened because of the lack of love,” Blaine reasoned.

She suggested that part of the Government's intervention should involve doing audits with children and youth.

“In every community we need to do a child audit. We need to know who are the children in this community. We need to know how many children live in every yard, every house. Are they in school, are they of school age, are they going to school? What are their social conditions? When we do that kind of child and youth audit, then we can be very precise about how many children you have in certain communities, their status, and their needs.”

Then, she said, it should be decided how they can be helped to become productive citizens in the country.

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