Children missing in Ja

KINGSTON, Jamaica – With more than 700 children reported missing in Jamaica last year, Children’s Advocate Mary Clarke has urged children who are having problems at home not to run away, but instead seek help from a trusting adult.

“I am appealing to children, if they are having problems, please find an adult to talk to. (Going missing from home) is not the solution,” she said, adding that community members should assist children who have problems.

According to statistics from the Missing Persons Intelligence Coordinating Desk at the National Intelligence Bureau, of the 1,102 persons who went missing up to October last year, 707 were children. Of the total persons who went missing in 2007, 894 returned home, while 208 are still unaccounted for.

Senior Superintendent of Police Derrick Cochrane, director of the NIB, said 659 of the children are aged 11-19. This group, he said, represents the largest number which goes missing each year.

“That is cause for concern,” Clarke said. “We would like to know that the police have exhausted all possibilities for investigation.”

The Children’s Advocate said some children go missing from home for various reasons, including escaping harsh punishment. “So we need to look at how we discipline our children,” Clarke told The Gleaner.

She also pointed out that there have been cases where children are lured away or captured for sexual exploitation.

“We need to remind persons that it is a criminal offence for men to have sex with children under the age of 16,” Clarke warned.

Since December, the electronic media have been flooded with requests from parents who are trying to locate their children who have gone missing.

According to SSP Cochrane, a missing person is “an individual who is absent from his or her place of frequency under any unexplained circumstances for any unusual period of time without reasonable communication.”

This new protocol, which was implemented about three years ago, is a departure from the recommendation that a person should be reported missing after 24 hours of being absent.

Of the 1,662 persons who went missing in 2006, more than 1,100 returned home.

SSP Cochrane said his office was in contact with a number of teenagers who left home because they were pregnant and were ashamed to return home.