Operating on less than half the required staff to be at optimum level, the recently formed Child Protection Unit of the Police Service have 358 cases before the courts arising out of 1,709 reports between May last year to February.The required staff needed for the unit is 216, inclusive of ten civilians. The current staff is 99 with one civilian.
Addressing the media at the weekly press briefing yesterday, at Police Administration Building, Port-of-Spain, head of the unit, Supt Odette Lewis, said there were other challenges that the unit, which exists within the nine policing divisions across the country, was facing.
Lewis said there was a lack of support from the communities where some of the victims lived and housing for some victims.
"At this time, I would say, support from the community is important. Sometimes we don't have that. I would also say, based on our strength at present, the powers that be must be aware that we need more places of safety for our nation's children.
"We are doing the best we can in collaboration with the Children's Authority. For example, forensic interviewing and medical examinations and what have you... but at the moment, we are managing. Within the next couple months, I am sure there will be an improvement," Lewis said.
She added her unit was "pleading and begging" communities to give the relevant information and to co-operate to ensure prosecution and convictions in the cases.
Asked about the safety of the nation's children given the high number of negative reports of child sexual abuse, Lewis urged parents, guardian and citizens to be vigilant.She said while the unit's main focus was on sexual crimes against children, they have dealt with children who have been physically abused.