CORAL SPRINGS, FL – Last Friday, a 10-year-old Coral Springs boy got into an argument with his father and ran out the front door of their home toward the woods, a police report said.
It was 5:30 p.m. when police were notified of James Gerun’s disappearance from Parkview Way.
Two officers searched the house and the woods, but couldn’t find the boy who runs away from his home often, the report said.
So police requested the Broward Sheriff’s Office helicopter unit to help spot James from above.
It worked: the child was located under a nearby bridge and then safely returned to his family less than two hours after he was reported missing.
From officers on the ground to a helicopter in the sky, Coral Springs police search for about 10 children a year who are reported missing by their families, Deputy Police Chief Brad McKeone said.
It’s not a lot of cases, considering that in the United States, an estimated 460,000 children are reported missing every year, according to the F.B.I.
In Coral Springs and other cities, the public rarely knows about such searches unless police ask residents on social media for help in finding children.
Since November, police have gone to social media to send out alerts at least seven times about children going missing, including James who accounted for three separate alerts.
“If there’s a concern we’ll get it out there right away, and we’ll have all hands on deck,” McKeone said.
In the age of human trafficking and child exploitation, McKeone said his officers move fast to search for children, and they bring in other assistance including a helicopter unit and a bloodhound depending on the seriousness of the situation.
“If we find a cell phone or backpack in the bushes, it raises the concern level,” he said. “We handle these on a case-by-case basis.”
Most children reported missing by the Coral Springs police on social media since November were returned home safely within hours, according to a review of social media posts.
But in November, a 13-year-old girl went missing for almost two days after disappearing from Mullins Park in Coral Springs and then showing up in Alexandria, Va.
How Riyah Jolly ended up in Virginia couldn’t be determined by TAPinto Coral Springs, but police at the time said she was unharmed and safe.
For police, there is a distinction between a child gone missing and a child deemed as a runaway, McKeone said.
Those listed as missing could be anywhere, while a runaway, though still missing, is believed to be with a friend or another family member and the search could be narrowed, he said.
In a city with more than 130,000 residents, police respond to dozens of runaway cases a year, police records show.
In the case of James Gerun, he ran away after his father told him that he had to complete three assignments before getting on the internet, the police report said.
The boy became belligerent, throwing an orange toward his father before running out the front door, the report said.
After officers found the boy under the bridge, they asked him why he ran away and hid from the police.
James didn’t respond.
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