(Jamaica Gleaner) – The vulnerabilities of Jamaican children make them easy pickings for exploitation by extremists, similar to the radicalism found in the Arab world, a study by university lecturer Dr Claudette Crawford-Brown has revealed.
Crawford-Brown’s claim comes with the recognition that many of the island’s children, some as young as four, are being trained by gunmen to carry out crime.
“They are watching drug shipments go off, they are watching criminal activities that are inappropriate for their age. This provides a breeding ground for later criminal activities,” said Crawford-Brown, a Fulbright research scholar and lecturer/coordinator of the Violence Prevention Programme at the University of the West Indies, Mona.
She said that by age 10, many vulnerable children are fully entrenched in crime. The situation is exacerbated by a weakening of the values structure within families, other support systems, the Church and positive role models.
Findings conducted over a three-year period within the 15-year study suggest there are a number of variables which predispose children to criminal activity. These variables include absence of fathers, lack of contact with fathers, absence of mothers, lack of contact with mothers and a strong relationship with negative role models.
Some of the families studied showed that the traditional family structure was being replaced by “criminalised families”.
Crawford-Brown was addressing a group of concerned citizens at UWI’s Western Jamaica campus in Montego Bay, St James, on the weekend.
“We are having a parenting crisis. What we have are vulnerable children, some of whom are having friends who are as old as 20-25 years. It is possible that this could become criminal extremist,” said the university lecturer.
“The same way we inoculate the children from diseases is the same way we will have to inoculate them from crime,” she added.
According to the researcher, unlike criminal patterns elsewhere, many of the perpetrators in Jamaica are children and youths. In 2009 alone, 825 youths aged 12-20 were arrested for major crimes. In the 12-15 age category, 46 persons were held for rape, carnal abuse and murder.