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Daly: Police stats don't necessarily mean fewer crimes against children
Even though the T&T Police Service reported a 12 per cent decrease in reports of serious crimes against children in 2018, former chairman of the Children's Authority Stephanie Daly said this does not mean that fewer crimes are being committed against children.
In an interview, Daly said the recent statistics cannot be interpreted to mean there is an actual decrease or increase of child abuse in T&T.
Saying the "extent of reported child abuse was worrying from day one," Daly explained that increased reporting suggested a level of confidence in the agencies set up to deal with child abuse.
"We also have to take into account the issue of late reporting.
Children could be facing abuse but it is not immediately reported," she explained.
She noted that it is not reliable to use the statistics presented by the TTPS to make a statement on the extent of child abuse, adding, "This is still a sizeable problem in T&T and what is important is ensuring that the State agencies set up to deal with this, are equipped with enough resources so that all reports of abuse could be acted upon immediately."
While she was the head of the Children's Authority, Daly said the figures of abuse were much higher than anticipated but despite the overwhelming amount of reports, she was impressed by how the staff coped.
Asked whether she believed the negative exposure of child abusers on social media served as a deterrent to sexual child abusers, Daly said no.
"I don’t think people think that far ahead when they are committing these acts. Social media would have little bearing on how they behave," she said. She also urged people to continue to report incidents of abuse to the police and to exercise care with their children during the holiday period.
A source at the Children's Authority said there was still a problem with finding accommodation for victims of abuse, adding that most times they are placed in the care of a responsible relative. There is also severe staff shortages at the Authority.
"We need a staff of 242 but we are currently operating with 140 and we are currently recruiting staff for our operations in Tobago," the official said.
During a function last week, chairman of the Children's Authority Haniff Benjamin said the authority has received 60,000 calls from the public on cases of abuse in T&T. He said the Authority is investigating 15,000 reports and remarked that 67 per cent of the reports are linked to instances of sexual abuse, physical abuse, and neglect.
On Wednesday, acting Senior Superintendent Sharon Cooper of the Child Protection Unit said the Police Service recorded a 12% decrease in reports of serious crimes against children, for the period January to June 2018 when compared to the corresponding period in 2017.
Cooper said there was a total of 878 reports made to the Child Protection Unit for January to June 2018, when compared to 1006, the previous year.
Sexual touching and sexual penetration continue to be the most prevalent, with 140 reports of sexual touching; and 348 reports of sexual penetration, for the period under review in 2018, versus 119 and 351 such reports respect.
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