Desperate to save her son - Gangsters recruiting them younger so mother wants to move her 10-year-old out of inner-city community
Living in one of Kingston's tough inner-city communities now under a state of emergency, Suzette Saunders* lives with a fear about the fate of her 10-year-old son.
She is seeing where more and more of these young boys are being recruited into criminal gangs and fears that her boy could be the next young 'shotta' in the community.
The mother of two is anxiously looking for an opportunity to send her son out of the community before he succumbs to the lures of the criminals.
Already, her 27-year-old daughter has left the area and is gainfully employed, and Saunders is convinced that the young woman would not have made something of herself had she not left the area years ago.
"It's just because I can't do any better why we are still here. It's because I am not employed and I can't pay rent anywhere else. That is why we stay here. Otherwise, we would have gone long time," said the woman who has lived in the community since 1982.
"The youth dem are not too young for the gangsters to use them. Who they don't use as spy, they use and do other things, and I don't want my son to get mixed up in that," said Saunders, her face creased in disgust at the thought.
"I already lose one brother to gun violence around here, I can't take no more," she added, as she recounted the murder of her brother in 2004.
He was killed when he went to look for a woman in a nearby community. To this day that case remains unsolved.
"Down here come in like a time bomb. Things may not be happening now but you don't know when it is going to kick off. Down here men always have feud with each other," she said, as she charged that often young boys are used as pawns in the rivalries.
Several young residents in the community also told The Sunday Gleaner that they are itching to leave.
They said while they value their community and their childhood friendships, their ultimate goal is to leave the area where ganja is smoked openly, begging is commonplace and black cloth nailed to light poles pay homage to those killed by the gun.
One sixth-form student from a prominent high school is among those itching to leave the community.
"Some people don't really like to remember where they are coming from because even though the place builds you, some people you just have to leave in the past," said the student, whose name is being withheld.
The police have confirmed that children as young as 12 years old are being sucked into gangs in troubled communities across the island.
According to data compiled by the Jamaica Constabulary Force Statistics and Information Unit, last year almost 300 children were arrested and charged in connection with violent crimes.
They included nine girls, one a 14-year-old, and two 15-year-olds were arrested after they were allegedly found with illegal firearms.
A 15-year-old boy was also arrested for allegedly raping a woman at gunpoint.
2017 police data on young criminals
- 78 teenagers arrested for shooting;
- 148 were arrested for illegal possession of firearm;
- 63 for robbery with aggravation.
* Name changed upon request.