Earlier this week, I spotted a small group of officers in the Criminal Investigations Team gathered around an iPad. You know me, a knot of cops around an iPad was irresistible. Turns out the iPad belonged to an 18 year old runaway, and the officers were brainstorming about how to use Find my iPhone to track the current location of her MacBook. Our missing person had skipped town with her laptop, but left her phone and tablet behind, which were provided to the investigators by her parents.
It turns out that our missing person had changed her Apple ID while on the lam, thwarting the attempt to easily track her with her own iPad. Good thinking. We tried Facetiming her (and her boyfriend) without success, too. She was not, however, entirely off the grid.
My experience is that the parents of a runaway are almost always very, very worried. They are often convinced--beyond all logic--that their incorrigible child with a history of splitting has now actually been kidnapped and is being held against her will. I understand the fear. This is your baby, after all, and though incredibly rare, there really are those occasional cases that put a lump in your throat. It should, however, be comforting to know that your abducted child is still updating Facebook, and making $2 purchases at convenience stores halfway across the country. Kidnappers will generally force you to buy a little more snack food than that.
So far this year, Lincoln police officers have investigated 886 missing person reports. It's a huge job. The chance encounter with the investigator seeking assistance from some colleagues just reminded my how much these investigations have changed within the very recent past, as technology has become ubiquitous that makes it almost impossible for a teenager (and most adults) to fall off the grid for very long.