The Anti Kidnapping Unit (AKU) is noting an alarming trend after recording a total of 154 missing children since the year began.
According to Asst Supt Darryl Ramdass, the majority of these children have run away from their homes and some of the reasons for this include parents/guardians disciplining their children, problems within homes and sexual grooming by adults.
Speaking during the weekly T&T Police Service media briefing at the Police Administration Building in Port-of-Spain yesterday, Ramdass said 142 persons, or 92 per cent, of the minors reported missing had been returned to their homes, while ten persons, or ten per cent, are still unaccounted for.
“Out of all the minors, 121 were female juveniles and 33 were males,” Ramdass said.
Giving a further breakdown, he said of the missing minors, 115 females and 27 males were accounted for and six females and four males were unaccounted for.
Providing some insight afterwards into what had prompted the minors to run away, Ramdass revealed, “What we have uncovered as it relates to these children, sometimes it may be a case of parents disciplining children at home and they just leave without stating where they are going to or accounting for their whereabouts.”
Addressing the category of family issues, Ramdass explained that this could include inappropriate sexual relations/acts between adults and children (including step-parents and stepchildren); the pulling and tugging that often arise in broken households; too much pressure on children to perform academically and not enough social interaction within the family circle. He said socio-economic circumstances also play a part overall in influencing behaviours among both minors and adults.
Noting the various scenarios members of the AKU have encountered during the period, Ramdass said, “We have to have social interventions, so we work hand in hand with our Community Police, our Child Protection Unit, the Children’s Authority, with a view to alleviating these sort of behaviour and giving that support system for these vulnerable children.”
Noting that he himself and other officers who deal with cases have been affected by what they have seen on the job, Ramdass admitted, “It is disheartening at times to hear some of the stories but we try all in our remit to foster and take the absolute care in bringing these reports to closure, and seeking the social intervention that is required for these vulnerable children.”
To parents, he appealed, “Take cognizance of your children. Look at the behavioural patterns that exists around them. See who they communicate with. We are in the advent of social media, pay attention to their phones.”
Similarly, he implored the loved ones of missing and unaccounted for adults to, “Pay attention to your loved one. Look at the vulnerability that exists around them, and in that way, you can assist the AKU and by extension, the TTPS in bringing closure to matters of these nature.”
Overall, Ramdass said a total of 327 persons have been reported missing for the year so far.
Of this number, 275 persons, or 84 per cent, have been returned home, while 34 persons, or ten per cent, were said to be unaccounted for.
Three matters of kidnapping for ransom have been recorded for the year so far and of this number, the AKU has successfully solved two, while investigators for the third are seeking advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions.
In 2006, the TTPS changed its mandate not to accept a missing person’s report in under 24 hours. The new policy now allows parents and loved ones to report someone missing once a couple hours have passed.