A recent surge in reports of children being abducted directly reflects the police’s lack of seriousness in dealing with the issue, a leading child protection advocate contends.
Arist Merdeka Sirait, the chairman of the National Commission for Child Protection (Komnas Anak), said on Thursday that the police’s approach to child kidnappings was “weak” and focused only on punishing individuals rather than rooting out entire syndicates.
“We’re now seeing an increase in these cases because the way the police are handling them is very weak,” he said.
“So far, the police have been treating each case as an isolated crime, when instead they should be looking at the bigger picture and the syndicates involved. Most child abductions involve a syndicate, and it’s these that the police should be waging war on.”
Arist was responding to a recent string of abductions and sexual violence against children across the country.
In the past three months, eight young girls were kidnapped from their homes in Bantaeng and Jeneponto districts in South Sulawesi, while earlier this month police rescued a one-year-old girl who had been kidnapped from her home in Yogyakarta so she could be sold to a couple in Jakarta.
In the South Sulawesi cases, the children were all found alive but had been sexually assaulted. Police have not yet named any suspects.
In the Yogyakarta case, however, a sex worker was arrested for kidnapping the one-year-old. A West Jakarta man was arrested for trying to buy the youngster.
Arist said the hallmarks of child-abduction syndicates could be seen in most cases of babies or infants going missing.
“The targets are always children from poor families who need money for treatment at a hospital, maternity clinic or community health center,” he said. “The syndicates typically have people scoping out those places, and it’s also possible that some of the hospital or clinic staff are involved.
“These people pretend to help the parents by offering to assist with their paperwork, but what they’re really doing is registering the child for a birth certificate under the name of a family that has already paid for the child.”
Komnas Anak received 120 reports of child abductions last year, up from 111 in 2010, Arist said.
“These were only the cases that were reported to us and they’re not nationwide data,” he said. “So far this year, we’ve received four reports of abductions, including one of a pair of twins that occurred just a few days ago.”
The flurry of reported abductions mirrors recalls a period in 2010 when a rash of kidnappings prompted communities in the Greater Jakarta area to carry out vigilante attacks.
Three men were killed and eight attacked by mobs in separate incidents in Bogor and Tangerang last August by mobs who feared they were planning to kidnap local children.
At the time, Arist agreed that the attacks may have been prompted by paranoia over the unsolved abductions.