Keep an eye on your kids in hol­i­days

Ap­peal as miss­ing chil­dren re­united with fam­i­lies

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - KOWTHAR SOLOMONS

THE MITCHELLS Plain Com­mu­nity Po­lice Fo­rum re­united eight lost chil­dren with their fam­i­lies at Mnandi Beach on Box­ing Day, prompt­ing them to re­it­er­ate their call for par­ents to be vig­i­lant about their chil­dren, es­pe­cially dur­ing the fes­tive sea­son.

Abie Isaacs, chair­man of the fo­rum, said eight lost chil­dren were re­united with their fam­i­lies af­ter they went miss­ing at Mnandi Beach on Thurs­day.

Many of the chil­dren were younger than six, and some par­ents couldn’t even pro­vide po­lice with a de­scrip­tion of what their chil­dren were wear­ing.

Isaacs said there was an el­e­ment of al­co­hol in­volved in some of the cases.

“To put it bluntly, th­ese par­ents are ir­re­spon­si­ble and it is hor­ri­fy­ing to think that th­ese chil­dren are left to wan­der the beaches by them­selves, with­out any­one watch­ing or tak­ing care of them. Some took as long as four hours be­fore they re­ported the child miss­ing.”

One child from Heinz Park came to the beach with neigh­bours, who left the beach with­out him.

“All the child could tell was that he was from Heinz Park. Luck­ily, we were able to con­tact some of the com­mu­nity lead­ers, and the child was re­turned to his fam­ily. But peo­ple need to put a stop to the gen­eral at­ti­tude of ‘it’s the beach, some­one else will look af­ter my child’.

“As a par­ent or guardian, it’s your re­spon­si­bil­ity to en­sure chil­dren are safe and not left to wan­der on their own,” Isaacs said.

The City of Cape Town’s iden­tikit pro­gramme, used to tag chil­dren at the beaches, has helped keep down the num­ber of lost chil­dren. How­ever, of­fi­cials can­not cover all en­try points to the beaches.

JP Smith, mayco mem­ber for safety and se­cu­rity, said it was ex­tremely dif­fi­cult, be­cause of the open­ness of the beaches, to en­force the iden­tikit pro­gramme at a sin­gle con­trol point. “Peo­ple with al­co­hol will sneak through the points with­out of­fi­cials to get their booze on to the beach. Their im­paired judg­ment also puts any chil­dren with them at risk, along with any life­guard on duty in case they de­cide to go for a drunken swim.

“We ask all beach­go­ers to fol­low the rules and al­ways keep an eye on their chil­dren,” he said.

Basil Coet­zee, chair­man of the Len­tegeur Com­mu­nity Po­lice Fo­rum (CPF), said the fes­tive sea­son of­ten brought its own chal­lenges for po­lice and safety au­thor­i­ties, par­tic­u­larly track­ing down miss­ing chil­dren.

“We know peo­ple get swept up in the silly sea­son, and of­ten par­ents have a few drinks and leave chil­dren ne­glected. We’ve seen chil­dren as young as 10 years old walk­ing around late at night, or go­ing to beaches by them­selves.”

He added that peo­ple of­ten wasted the time of the au­thor­i­ties too, fail­ing to note their chil­dren’s where­abouts, then re­port­ing them miss­ing, when they were with fam­ily or friends.

“Both par­ents and their chil­dren should take re­spon­si­bil­ity, and let each other know their where­abouts at all times. It takes a huge amount of re­sources to search for miss­ing chil­dren, and those re­sources shouldn’t be wasted on false alarms.”

Dessie Rech­ner, di­rec­tor of the Pink Ladies, said the fes­tive sea­son brought a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in the num­ber of miss­ing peo­ple.

“It comes like a wave dur­ing the fes­tive sea­son. When the schools close we see an in­crease in the num­ber of run­aways. Our mes­sage is the same as it is all year round – par­ents need to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for their chil­dren, and stay close to them.”

Ini­tia­tives like tag­ging a child and en­sur­ing they al­ways have their par­ents’ con­tact num­bers could make a world of dif­fer­ence. “Both ini­tia­tives give nearby adults de­tails of the child, in­clud­ing the par­ents’ num­bers. Older chil­dren should SMS par­ents when­ever they go some­where.”.

‘It’s your re­spon­si­bil­ity to en­sure chil­dren are safe and not left to wan­der on their own’

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