[KHTS] – Reports of two missing Santa Clarita Valley teens prompted concern from residents last week, before both runaway teens safely returned home.
Statistics indicate Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station deputies receive, on average, almost one report a day, and protocols dictate the handling of each case individually, officials said Wednesday.
“We treat every case individually based on the circumstances surrounding the missing persons report,” said Deputy Josh Dubin of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station Crime Prevention Unit. “We take each case seriously, although certain factors, like if the report involves an abduction or mental illness, will give the case a higher priority due to Department protocols.”
The protocols for a missing teen are also spelled out in the Sheriff’s Department’s Manual on Policy and Procedure.
Sheriff’s Department policy dictates several “phases” with the potential to elevate the level of response based on the circumstances around the report.
A “Missing Person Report (SH-R-12) shall be taken when requested (including telephonic requests) without delay,” according to the manual. “Notify Sheriff’s Headquarters Bureau if the missing child is 16 years of age or under and has not been located after four hours, or if the child is under 21 years old and missing for four hours under an ‘at risk’ situation.”
The manual goes on to further state: “On children 16 years of age or under, send local JDIC ‘Be on the Lookout’ (BOL) broadcast if missing only; send statewide broadcast and BOL when a crime, suspicious circumstances or ‘at risk’ situations are involved. Broadcast is to be canceled when the child is found.”
The phase two assigned Station/Unit detectives shall immediately notify Homicide Bureau, Missing Persons Detail, the manual states. In case of an accident where search or rescue, handle in same manner as for a critical age (i.e., 16 years of age or under) child, under “Missing Children.”
In that scenario, deputies are to notify Emergency Services Detail and Station/Unit detectives at once, according to the manual.
If the child is 12 years old or under — or there is a suspected abduction, the case is given a very high priority per department procedure, officials said.
A majority of the cases involve a missing teen who is reported by parents but often return home within a day or two, according to past reports.
The statistics show there were 368 missing persons reports in 2012, of which 257 were people under the age of 18. Nearly 40 residents were reported missing multiple times, and of those, 25 people were reported missing two times; 10 people were reported missing three times; two people were reported missing five times and one person was reported missing six times, just that year.
In 2013, there were 285 Santa Clarita Valley residents reported missing, and 185 of those were juveniles. In the year-to-date figures for 2014, there have been 260 reports of missing persons, and 166 of those were juveniles.
Missing juvenile reports are often handled at the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station level, while reports of missing adults — 18 and over — are generally handled by the Homicide Bureau, which operates out of Los Angeles, officials said.
Deputies did offer several tips for parents who are concerned or have had a missing teen reported in the past.
An important piece of information for parents to have is access to their child’s social media account, officials said.
One of the first things a deputy will ask for when a missing teen is reports is if the child is on social media, does the child have a Facebook or another social media account, Dubin said.
“‘Who are their friends? Where could they be? What’s their twitter handle?’ are all questions frequently asked,” he said.
A parent should also know who their child is hanging out with, and where the child is frequently seen.
While it might seem like common knowledge, parents are sometimes unable to provide answers for these questions, which often help deputies find out where to look for a child, he said.
“A report of a missing child is every parent’s worst nightmare,” Dubin said. “If that ever does happen, knowing what the child has been up to online is extremely helpful for when deputies and detectives are asked to help find a child who was left home.”