COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Runaways sometimes live in the shadows of our society, which is why officials in the Midlands are refusing to let them be forgotten.
Columbia Police started a proactive online campaign earlier this month in an effort to find runaways and victims of human trafficking using their social media sites and their website. The missing young people are listed on the website and on the department's Facebook page. They range from 14 to 17 years old and include seven females and two males.
They have been reported as runaways by family members, guardians, or the Department of Social Services so far this year. The Deputy Chief for Columbia Police Melron Kelly said the department takes all reports of runaways seriously.
"Unfortunately, there are a lot of issues that take place in homes across every community that affect children and they decide to run away,” Kelly said. “At the same time, it is our mission as a police department to make sure that our young people are safe."
Kelly also wants to remind parents or guardians they do not have to wait 24 hours to report a missing child.
"We always encourage parents and guardians to report your person as a runaway missing just if it's out of the norm. Normally if they're home by 4 o'clock and it's upwards towards 8 p.m. and they're not home, report that person missing if you believe it's something out of the norm. We'd better be safe than sorry."
The names of the runaways have been entered into the National Crime Information Center database. That means if a law enforcement officer across the country locates the teen, CPD will be notified and arrangements to return the child will get underway.
For more information on the missing teens, click here.