Fri | Jun 5, 2020

Beware of child predators! - Retired cop warns parents to guard kids’ safety

Published:Monday | May 4, 2020 | 12:07 AMJason Cross/Gleaner Writer

Jamaican parents and community groups have been urged to adopt a more activist role in protecting children from sexual predators who are increasingly lurking on the Internet.

Retired Deputy Commissioner of Police Novelette Grant, who is still active in community-transformation initiatives, said yesterday that children have been collaborating with, and lured by, adults who facilitate them in beating curfews and running away from home.

Grant encouraged parents to move swiftly in alerting the police to missing children, saying that waiting until 24 hours have passed before filing a report was a thing of the past. Restrictions under the islandwide curfew were no excuse, she said.

“One of the things they are doing is going on social media and contacting adults who encourage them to come visit,” said Grant. “We have laxity on the part of parents and guardians, and we also have adults who are predators and are luring children.”

Grant continued: “You can still make reports. If you are stopped at a checkpoint, you can explain to the police that you are going to make a report.”

The retired cop was addressing a virtual panel discussion as part of a webinar series in celebration of Child Month 2020 titled ‘Part 1: Protecting Children, Building Hope’. It was organised by Choose Life International in partnership with Hear the Children’s Cry.

Her call comes in the early days of Child Month, which is being commemorated under the theme ‘Unplug Negativity, Connect Positivity ... Think’.

Meanwhile, Betty Ann Blaine, founder of advocacy group Hear the Children’s Cry, said that she was puzzled that children were still going missing during lockdowns and islandwide curfews imposed to control the spread of COVID-19.

Blaine expressed concern that even after the Government closed schools on March 13, at least 33 children were reported missing in a three-week period. Though still alarming, she conceded that fewer children have gone missing during the curfew than would usually vanish under pre-restriction conditions.

“How are children able to move around so freely under this kind of lockdown?” asked Blaine.

Grant recommended that parents use the nationwide curfew, which bars movement from 6 p.m.-6 a.m. daily, except for exempted personnel, as an opportunity to discuss issues affecting youth and forging tighter family bonds.

She also called on communities to promote positive development and safety of children during the pandemic.

“This is the time ... to have non-judgemental conversations. This is the time to go over what their dreams are and the things that are bothering them,” said Grant.