Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Missing person found

Sunday evening, a 17 year old boy with Down syndrome turned up missing, after he parted ways with his Mom at Sunday night Mass. He didn’t want to go, and while she was turned the other way in a conversation at the Church, he skipped out.

By late night, he still hadn’t surfaced, so we spent the rest of the night looking for him: searching the Church, a nearby hospital, searching his home, checking open businesses, and so forth. Since he has a developmental disability, we treated this as a child at greater risk, even though he was clearly voluntarily absent, and followed our usual practice in such cases.

At daybreak, we were putting out a full-scale alert to the media, and making outbound phone calls using achildismissing.org. A command post was established to coordinate a door-to-door search by a group of officers. The Church was searched again, his home was searched again, the hospital across the street was searched again.

Late morning, a caller contacted us and let us know that James was at the Burger King. I happened to be mobile at the time, so I stopped by. He was blithely chatting with Officer Stacey Fitch about the Iowa v. Penn State game, among other topics. He told her he had spent the night sleeping in a parked car. “Car or truck?” she asked. “A Cadillac,” he replied.

He was a gregarious, talkative youngster, lightly-dressed in shorts and a t-shirt. I’ll bet he got a little chilly overnight. He told me that he had a sausage biscuit at Burger King and a hamburger.

We’re glad this had a happy ending. So far this year, James is missing person number 1,604 for the Lincoln Police Department. Yes, you read right: that’s one thousand six hundred and four, with over three months to go in 2009.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

How many of those 1,604 cases were mormally-functioning repeat runaways of adolescent or teen age?

Dave said...

I am so glad this had a happy ending. When I woke in the morning, I saw this on the news and decided to go out and help look for this young myself.

I was not alone either, I encountered many civilians out looking for James. Seeing those persons out as well as myself, gave me a real sense of community pride, knowing that there are times that we do become involved.

And Chief, was that you on the radio who inquired which officer was with James and gave the resounding "good job" on the radio?

Anonymous said...

A creative young man to allude the police for many hours however innocently. This is a happy outcome.

Charity said...

Are most of those missing persons teenagers, adults? I imagine if they were children, we'd hear about them more quickly.

And how many get solved during the year?

Anonymous said...

What percentage of those reported missing are eventually found and safe?

Two missing cases from way back I always wonder about are the Gosch and Martin boys missing from Des Moines in the early (80's).

I can't imagine anything worse than a child going missing and not being found.

Great work by everyone in the community on this recent case.

Gun Nut

Tom Casady said...

6:40, Charity, Gun Nut-

Of the total (1,604), 1,224 have been juveniles. That's the number of cases, though, not a unique count of individuals, and some kids are chronic repeat runaways. At any given time, we have about 20-30 missing. The vast majority eventually return home or are located. Every now and then, though, we have your worst nightmare: a Jacob Surber, Jon Simpson, or Melissa Schmidt abducted and murdered.

On several occasions, I can recall non-custodial parental kidnappings. There have been plenty of other adult missing persons who turned out to be murder victims or suicide victims. You have to consider these possibilities in every missing person case, and frankly the chronic runaway is the child most at risk to be victimized.

Anonymous said...

Can we see a chart of hair color and eye color. What time of the day do the brown hair children go on run?

Kyle Larson said...

Seen this article while browsing the Husker web. Nice comment about the Lincoln Police Department.


Trevor Brass said...

1,604 missing persons YTD?! Is this tally comprised of unique individuals or case quantity? How are people so easily lost track of? Don't we live in the day were it is nearly impossible to "live off the grid?"

Anonymous said...

I live in the 1-mile radius and got the phone call, which surprised me as I did not know of this capability. I had seen the reports on TV while at the Y, so when the robo call launched, I knew what it was. How frequently is this technology used?

Also, were there higher personnel costs for this search or was just the normal Sunday night detachment put on?

I'm glad that in Lincoln, we still care about this type of stuff. I suspect in other cities, the response would be far less urgent.

Tom Casady said...

10:41 -

Sunday night is usually the slowest time of the week by a long shot, so we had plenty of time and enough people to handle the follow-up.

We have had achildismissing.org as an option for about two years, and I suppose we've used it about four times. It's free, and a great service that a few years ago would have required pretty expensive software and maintenance. We want to be careful not to overdo it, so people like you continue to listen to the message, and don't just hang up on the automated phone call.