JIS News

The nightmare or trauma of being told that your child is missing, or has been abducted, is one experience that every parent would rather avoid.
While there is no foolproof way of guaranteeing safety, the Victim Support Unit (VSU), which operates out of the Ministry of Justice, is developing a risk assessment tool and profiling database, as a means of offering better protection for the nation’s children.
“In recent times, with the upsurge in attacks against our children, particularly those who are being abducted and raped, there is a possibility that we can collate all the data that we have to get a feel of who is being targeted, where persons are being targeted and what kind of circumstances may heighten the possibility of an individual being targeted,” says Senior Coordinator at the VSU, Rev. Osbourne Bailey, in an interview with JIS News.
He tells JIS News, that “one of the things that we are actually working on here at the unit is a risk assessment tool, based on the understanding that there are certain factors, behaviour patterns and criteria that will make one child more at risk than another”.
Rev. Bailey believes that with access to this information, stakeholders and Jamaicans from all walks of life, will have the opportunity to become more aware of the missing persons issue and use this information to make better decisions about their every day lives, have informed discussions on the matter, and create solutions to missing persons related problems.
“We will be using the tool to collate all the possible risk factors so we can identify what we call low, medium and high risk children, because we believe that all children are at risk and once we have this information, we will then be able to work with the schools, the parents, the communities, support groups and social services, to ensure that a better environment is provided to protect our children,” he asserts.
He tells JIS News, that a draft of the risk assessment tool has been developed and is being tested to iron out any possible kinks, as well as to get input from key stakeholders. “We have a draft, which basically is a questionnaire that children will be asked to complete. We are actually testing the questionnaire and the idea is that we will expose it to some of our stakeholders such as the Child Development Agency (CDA), the Ministry of Education and the Police, in order to fine tune it”, he says.
He informs that the draft will have to be vetted by “various other persons in the Ministry …and once they are approved and tested and have the capacity to do what it says it can do, I would say in another couple of months we should have something that is workable”.
As it relates to the profiling database, Rev. Bailey states that it will be a collaborative venture involving a number of stakeholders. “Profiling is the matter of collecting and analysing data”, he explains, “the purpose of which is to identify likely trends in an attempt to prevent crime or to predict the kind of persons, who would be likely to commit certain types of crime.”
“Because of the nature of data collection that is required in our context, it will be a collaborative work. Various agencies have data – the Ministry of Health, the Police, CDA and the Ministry of Education – and the idea is that if we compile the data and develop tools to analyse the data, whether it be electronic tools or whatever means, we would be in a better position to protect and prevent persons from becoming victims of crime,” Rev. Bailey points out.
Until these initiatives are ready for implementation, the Senior Coordinator is encouraging victims of crime to come to the VSU for counselling and other support services, as emotional support is critical in the process of recovery.
“The matter of emotional support for victims cannot be understated or overstated because when a crime is committed, research has shown that one of the largest impacts that it has is emotional, because while the crime will occur in a moment in time, in the mind of the victim, this crime is continually being committed. They have flashbacks on the anniversary of when the crime was committed or if they are in the area where the crime was committed and various other things can cause them to re-live the crime,” he noted.
The primary mandate of the VSU, is to provide an emotional support base for victims of crime and Rev. Bailey is reminding persons that the much needed service is provided free of cost.
“The services provided by the unit are free. They are of the highest quality and they are very confidential. The unit operates by getting victims through the police, the courts, and some of them do walk in. We establish various networks including governmental and non governmental networks, to provide additional assistance and to help to uphold the rights of victims. We also involve communities through our volunteer programme,” he informs.
Rev. Bailey tells JIS News that the VSU also provides court support. “A large part of what we do is called court support in that we go with clients to court, explain to them the court process, remind them of their court dates and sometimes we transport them to court to ensure that they are properly served through the nation’s court system,” he reveals.
The VSU also has a preventative component to its services and operations. “The VSU is also involved in preventative work in that with our experience, knowledge and exposure, we try to identify what it is that citizens can do to protect themselves from becoming victims of a crime. We try to identify persons, who are most vulnerable, and who are most at risk for certain crimes, and we try to sensitise them through work with individual persons and community groups,” he points out.
The VSU has an office in every parish across Jamaica and for persons, who unaware of the locations, Rev. Bailey advises that “they can always speak to a Police Officer at any of the police stations in the parishes or they can call the head office at 946-0663 or 946-9287 and we will direct them to the parish office”.
Rev. Bailey hopes that the services that are offered by the VSU will in some way give a sense of balance to the justice process. He notes that “often times, when a crime is committed, the victim functions primarily in the court system as a witness, someone who just gives evidence and the system in essence pursues the perpetrator through the police, the courts, the prisons and other facilities. The victims are often left after they have given evidence to find support from their friends and families and churches”.
The VSU attempts to balance the system by providing a professional body of persons “with the responsibility to walk them through the process and rehabilitate them through the various issues, which become a part of their lives as a result of the crime,” Rev. Bailey says.

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