CORAL SPRINGS, FL – Last month, a mother called Coral Springs police for help in finding her missing daughter.
She last saw her daughter on a Saturday night at their home on Wild Lime Lane in Coral Springs, a police report said. On Sunday morning, she was gone, along with her laptop, but left her cell phone at home.
Two days later, the mother told police her daughter was still missing but had called from Miami where she was with a possibly dangerous gang member and said she was going to “get with him,” the report said.
A short time later, her daughter returned home.
It was a fairly routine “runaway” case handled by Coral Springs police on April 14 -- one of roughly a dozen runaway cases the department handles a month, according to a review of police cases from February to May.
In all, Coral Springs police investigated at least 40 cases of runaway children during those months, records show. The numbers have remained fairly consistent through the coronavirus crisis.
Child advocates warn that runaway children are highly vulnerable.
Many teenagers run away because of drug or alcohol use, pregnancy, suicide tendencies, and gang connections, according to National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Once they are on their own, even for days, children can be targeted for sex trafficking, which has devastating consequences for young victims, including long-lasting physical and psychological trauma, disease, and even death, according to the center.
According to Amy Morin, a social worker, psychotherapist, and lecturer at Northeastern University in Boston, teenagers run away when they feel “their parents are suffocating them, being overly demanding, acting forceful, or dominating them,” she wrote on the website Very Well Family, which is a partner of Cleveland Clinic.
Morin added: “In their minds, it is the ultimate way to demand autonomy. And, they often do not consider the risks involved.”
In Coral Springs, many runaway cases are resolved within a day or so, sometimes within hours, Bradley McKeone, the deputy police chief, said in a recent interview.
Local children often run away because of disputes with their parents or caregivers, he said. They are usually found at the homes of their friends, particularly their boyfriends or girlfriends.
“The majority of cases are not criminal in nature but instead are family or civil-related,” McKeone said.
Coral Spring Police Department has a team of victim advocates who are trained in crisis intervention, he said. They work with families of runaway teenagers and connect them with social workers, mental health therapists, and other experts when necessary.
If a child remains missing for more than a few days or is considered endangered, the department will reach out to the news media and its social media followers to seek the public’s help in finding the child, McKeone added.
It’s not clear exactly why the teenager on Wild Lime Lane ran away last month. The police report didn’t go into those details.
But the girl’s parents told police that their daughter has run away before but usually returned within 24 hours.
In the weeks after she ran away, police records show that no one from her house had called police to report her missing again.
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