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Criminal bureau defines missing children, details preventative measures

Reports of missing or abducted children continue to dominate the headlines in the state and national news media.

The Utah Bureau of Criminal Identification defines missing children are youth who, for whatever reason, are not in their usual abode and whose parents or caretakers are unaware of their whereabouts. Missing children include youth who are abducted by a stranger or acquaintance, run away from families, are abducted by a parent or a relative due to custody disputes, become lost and have been discarded by lawful custodians or parents.

While the majority of children who are reported missing are eventually recovered or decide to return home, the youth may be gone for significant periods of time. Some children are found dead and some are never recovered, points out the criminal identification bureau.

Coordination and cooperation between law enforcement, the state missing children's clearinghouse and all involved agencies can shorten the time children are away from their proper custodians or families, thereby lessening chances of exposure to dangerous situations.

Abductions by a stranger account for the least number of missing children reports filed in Utah and across the United States. But the incidents have the most grim outlook for recovery, especially if the child is not located within 48 hours.

Immediate and intensive location efforts are necessary, stresses the criminal identification bureau. In addition, Carbon County citizens should implement several measures designed to reduce stranger abduction risks. Local residents should:

•Teach children how to use the phone to call home or contact a parent's workplace.

•Make sure youth know their full names, addresses and phone numbers, including area codes.

•Practice making collect calls with children. Tell youth to call collect immediately should anything unusual happen.

Tell children to call immediately if anyone indicates their parents are dead or do not love them anymore.

•Make sure youth understand the importance of never accepting rides from strangers.

•Remind youth to remain alert against a stranger who suggests they go off alone for any reason. Examples include leaving together to find a lost puppy, etc.

•Educate children to let their mothers or fathers know immediately if another adult suggests keeping secrets from their parents.

•Never leave youth alone in a motor vehicle - even for a minute.

For children abducted by non-custodial parents, life is frequently on the run and the youth are uprooted from familiar schools as well as friends, indicates the state criminal identification agency.

The children are often moved to other states and the youth's names may be changed to avoid detection. In addition, the abducted children are frequently traumatized not only emotionally, but by physical abuse from a desperate absconding parent.

In order to alleviate the impacts associated with custodial interference, the criminal identification bureau recommends:

•Making sure that custody orders specify with whom the child is to reside at specific times and restricts removal from the state without prior consent from the judge.

•Filing certified copies of the decrees in the non-custodial parent's home county or state.

The filings notify the courts in the county or state that a valid decree has already been issued and must be honored.

Residents should also consider filing copies of decrees with counties in which a non-custodial parent has close friends or relatives.

•Keeping lists of up-to-date information like addresses, phone numbers, Social Security numbers, passport numbers and birthdays of all relatives as well as friends of the non-custodial parent.

•Keeping photos of children updated every four months. In addition, know the current weight and height of their children.

Residents should keep all information in two separate and secure places.

•Notifying schools, day care centers and babysitters of custody orders. Give copies to the child caretakers and ask to be alerted if a non-custodial parent makes an unscheduled visit to the facility.

Runaways comprise the largest category of missing children, indicates the criminal identification bureau. The manpower and resources required to track youth, coupled with the perception that the children will eventually return home, have made the incidents a difficult enforcement problem

Unfortunately, the youth are likely to be exposed to adverse and exploitative influences, including drugs and prostitution. Often, runaways enter criminal statistics through related activities.

Residents should promptly notify law enforcement authorities regarding runaway incidents, concludes the criminal identification bureau.

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