Juvenile Runaways

Sometimes police deal with juvenile runaways in cases pertaining to child abduction, child abandonment, child abuse or neglect, underage drinking, child sexual exploitation, prostitution, shoplifting, drug dealing, murder and many such illegal activities. ‘According to data compiled by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 4.5 million children "regularly" use tobacco products, and 20 percent use alcohol.'(Daniel Macallair) The example of a thirteen year old girl, Helen who has already killed a man is frightening. She ran away from her aunt’s house to stay with a gang. ‘I was with my homies and we saw one of the MS scum who had killed my homegirl,’ Helen recalls. ‘I stuck this knife into his back and he fell. We kicked him and crushed his head with a brick. Then we pushed his body into a ditch. I was covered in blood. Revenge is sweet,’ she said. Her friends smiled. (Sandra Jordan, 2002)
Another example is of two juvenile runaways who were trying to illegally immigrate to the US along with a kidnapper. ‘Yuma Sector Border Patrol agents rescued two juvenile runaways and arrested an alleged kidnapper Monday after they entered the United States without having been inspected at a port of entry.'(Yuma news) These sorts of incidences are not uncommon these days.
The term ‘runaway’ is specially identified with juveniles when they are absent from home or substitute care, for example placements, such as foster care or group homes without permission. Runaways were once believed to be juveniles seeking adventure or rebelling against mainstream values and the authority of their parents. But more recently, runaways have been regarded as victims of dysfunctional families, schools, and social service institutions. Runaways are usually running away from a problem they do not know how to solve, rather than "running to" an environment they imagine being more relaxed and exciting.
"There were approximately 1.7 million juvenile runaway episodes in 1999. In 1999, 150,700 juveniles were arrested for running away. Only about one-third of these juveniles were actually "missing," meaning that their parents or caretakers did not know where they were and were concerned about their absence. Only about one-fifth of all runaway episodes were reported to police. Most runaways are older teenagers, ages 15 to 17, with only about one-quarter ages 14 and younger. Juveniles of different races run away at about the same rates and boys and girls run away in equal proportions.
Although juveniles from all socioeconomic statuses run away, the majority are from working-class and lower-income homes, possibly because of the additional family stress created by a lack of income and resources. Blended families also experience additional stress, which may explain why juveniles living in these settings are also more likely to run away. Runaway rates are similar for juveniles in urban, suburban, and rural settings." (Kelly Dedel, p1)
The law enforcement officers encounter runaways, whether reported missing or not, through a number of activities, for example while patrolling areas where runaways congregate or while investigating missing persons reports, or during criminal investigations in which juveniles were either perpetrators or victims. Despite their interest in protecting children’s safety, police often assign a low priority to