Hello everyone, I hope you had a good week. I know I certainly did, as Dawn and I married off our youngest son. Our family is now blessed with three daughter in-laws and four grandsons. We’re still waiting for that first girl!
I want to talk about runaways and missing persons today. When I started in law enforcement 39 years ago we handled missing persons much different than we do today. Law enforcement used to wait 24 hours before doing much because the feeling was most people will show up.
Well, that all changed when a young boy in Des Moines, Iowa was abducted while preparing to deliver the morning paper. Johnny Gosh was never seen again and the backlash concerning the police response was both severe and correct. Slowly but surely, we began to change our practices and now any missing child report is met with a quick and extensive response.
In most jurisdictions police will begin a search and notify local, state and national resources immediately. The local media will be notified and we now use social media to further spread the word. The old milk carton pictures have now been replaced by the internet and the far reaching abilities it has.
When we are faced with a rebellious teenager who is refusing to come home, this response is not very appropriate. For that reason when a parent calls us wanting to report their child as a runaway, because they are 10 minutes late for their curfew, we put the ball back in the parent’s court to find their child.
If a parent knows where a child is and they are refusing to come home, this is a parent issue not a missing person.
The problem of course comes into play when we are unsure whether it is a rebellious child or abduction. For that reason we error on the side of caution and hit these cases really hard. It takes a lot of our resources, however it seems to me there are few issues more important.
In certain instances we have chronic runaways who certainly may be in danger, however they are in that situation of their own choosing.
This makes finding them even more difficult and we seem to spend a great deal of time on a preventable problem.
Although it may not seem like it’s based on all we hear, the number of missing children has not changed that much. The response to this crime has changed for the better and we no longer take a wait and see approach in our response. Sometimes the good old days weren’t really that good.