Trusted local news leader for Prescott area communities since 1882
Thu, Dec. 05

Column: 'Missing' doesn't have to be permanent label

One of the most traumatic events for a parent must be having a child go missing.

I cannot even imagine how that would feel.

From time to time here at The Daily Courier, we receive word of children, teenagers and adults who did not arrive somewhere when they were supposed to, seemingly vanishing from the face of the Earth.

Some are runaways — and do not want to be found; some are irresponsible, by going to a different place than they told a friend or relative; and other explanations often come forward eventually. Unfortunately, some are vulnerable or are being exploited, or are simply in danger.

The police have criteria for these and how to handle them, as does the newspaper.

The state has wonderful systems in Amber Alerts and Silver Alerts — which are broadcast across the state and region. It can be someone who is not where they’re expected to be and did not take their medications with them. Others involve people with special needs, some have dementia, or — God forbid! — some have been abducted.

Recently reporters in our newsroom have been checking on a few girls who have been missing for some time, as well as an adult who said they were on their way home but never got there.

Police do not always have information on these cases. In fact, in most of the recent instances, officials told us their docket was empty; meaning, they were not actively working any cases of missing persons at that time.

Community Service Officer Jerry Ferguson with the Prescott Valley Police Department said, regarding the missing adult, that PVPD took a report on it, but because there was nothing in the investigation that showed any kind of suspicious activity, it is not an open missing persons case.

They didn’t even have a witness to say the person was acting cagey or was seen in questionable circumstances.

“We don’t carry on investigations that have no basis for an investigation,” he said. “If there was anything that indicated that (this person) was in danger or was something that required further follow up, then (detectives) would be acting on it.”

The exception to this is if a juvenile goes missing. But adults “are free to do whatever they want,” which includes disappearing, he said.

Those words cut like a knife, but are true.

This is why it is so important for all of us to follow the mantra local police have been using: “See something, say something.”

Common sense is often in short supply nowadays — on the part of the possible victim, as well as those left behind — but when you see something that seems odd or suspicious, recognize how that causes a red flag to flash in your mind and, please, act on it. Call law enforcement, tell them what you saw; at a minimum call Silent Witness at 800-932-3232 (you don’t have to give your name).

Following are websites (many, many exist) that carry information about cases of people who are missing. Check them out:

• www.facebook.com/AZMUU/ - Arizona Missing, Unclaimed, Unsolved;

• www.missingkids.com/ — The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children; and,

• www.namus.gov/ — The National Missing & Unidentified Persons System.

Who knows, you might have seen something that will help re-open a case and save someone or, at least, put a parent’s fears to rest.

Tim Wiederaenders is the senior news editor for the Prescott News Network. Follow him on Twitter @TWieds_editor. Reach him at 928-445-3333, ext. 2032, or twieds@prescottaz.com.

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