Research : A life in the Day

The International University of the Caribbean (IUC)

MURDEROUS! More than 1,500 children and teenagers killed since 2001

Published: Sunday | July 17, 2011

Eleven-year-old Ananda Dean, who was killed in 2008.- File
Eleven-year-old Ananda Dean, who was killed in 2008.- File

… Another 1,600 shot and wounded

Tyrone Reid, Sunday Gleaner Reporter

CRIMINALS IN Jamaica have ruthlessly murdered more than 1,500 children and teenagers since the turn of the 21st century.

The number of child/teen killings between 2001 and 2010 could have easily doubled, as statistics published by the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) show that 1,600 more were gunshot victims.

Noted academic and chairman of the Early Childhood Commission, Professor Maureen Samms-Vaughan, believes a study on the number of children murdered per capita in Jamaica is needed.

Betty-Ann Blaine, convenor of Hear the Children’s Cry, believes successive governments have avoided commissioning a review of the number of children murdered per capita in Jamaica because the results would be shameful. “I think the authorities are afraid to do it (because) the picture would be bad. The Government will not initiate it because it will be embarrassing for them,” she said.

At the same time, Samms-Vaughan argued that the study should not be undertaken merely to unearth numbers but to get an understanding of child killings so that appropriate intervention measures can be crafted to remedy the problem.

“It is something that we should be checking. We really should be monitoring it,” Samms-Vaughan told The Sunday Gleaner.

She added: “Monitoring it against international data allows us to see if we are doing well in comparison to other countries and we can learn from other people’s interventions.”

The professor cautioned that Jamaica’s high per capita murder rate does not necessarily translate to high per capita murder figures for children. In 2005, Jamaica had 1,674 murders, and the highest murder rate, per capita, in the world. Four years later, in 2009, Jamaica – with a population of 2.7 million – recorded 1,680 murders for a national record, ranking 21st in the world.

According to data from the PIOJ’s annual Economic and Social Survey of Jamaica (ESSJ), Jamaican children are not only being killed, but they are also killing. Between 1996 and 2001, some 629 recorded murders were committed by youths 17 years old and younger.

That same age group was responsible for a total of 4,523 recorded major crimes – murder, shooting, rape/carnal abuse and robbery – during the same period.

ESSJ reports published between 2001 and 2010 repeated the menacing fact that young people in Jamaica were prime murder targets.

The 2001 ESSJ data also revealed that “the largest number of those killed were young persons, aged 21 to 25 years.”

Drop in murders

Between 2008 and 2010, the number of child murders fell – from 94 in 2008 to 61 in 2010.

An updated UNICEF situation analysis on excluded children in Jamaica published in 2006 painted a similar picture. A section of the document read: “Children caught in violence: 91 children murdered in 2005; sexual abuse of children rampant; child development undermined.”

The UNICEF document added, “Of the 1,674 persons murdered in Jamaica in 2005, 91 were children (5.44 per cent). Over the past five years, more than 300 children have been murdered.”

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