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When a child is reported missing and is subsequently found alive, that’s indeed great news and a feeling great relief to everyone – the child’s parents, relatives, friends, teachers, the police, and the various missing-persons groups and committees. Such was the case of 10-year-old Annaliese Davis, a student of Duhaney Park primary School, who was reported missing, but within a few hours, she was found alive.

Even though I am not privy to the details of her recovery, I am over-joyed.

Initially, I received an eMail from Betty-Ann Blaine, head of the Hear the Children Cry Committee, alerting me to the Annaliese’s missing, but before I could have circulated the information, she send a follow-up eMail that simply say: “HI DELROY, PRAISE GOD, SHE WAS FOUND AND IS ALIVE!”

That was indeed good news, but it still doesn’t cancel the fact that children accounted for 66 per cent of the 1,446 persons who were reported missing in 2008. And according to an April 30, 2009 Jamaica Observer report, “a total of 181 of the 960 children who went missing last year were unaccounted for up until late yesterday (April 29, 2009).”

Betty-Ann was the one who made that disclosure during the launch of the Missing Children’s Support Programme at the Swallowfield Primary and Junior High School in St Andrew, Jamaica. She reported then that 772 of the children who went missing throughout 2008 returned to their families. Seven were found dead. She described the statistics as frightening and said the problem was one that needed urgent attention. And according to Betty-Ann then, “The only way we are going to fight this scourge is to work together.”

“As it turns out though, the issue of missing persons may really be among the most fundamental of the matters facing the constabulary, the addressing of which may well contribute to the resolution of some of the serious crimes we face in Jamaica. Indeed the authorities, now that they are collating the information, have reported that they were 1,881 persons reported missing in Jamaica last year, or more than 72 per 100,000 persons in the island. That is substantially higher than the country’s horrendous murder rate of nearly 57 per 100,000 population,” reported a January 17, 2005 Jamaica Observer story.

Since then, numerous initiatives concerning missing children seemed to have surfaced. One of those initiatives saw the establishment of the, said to be Jamaica’s FIRST and ONLY website dedicated to helping families obtain information to find their missing loved ones, was set up. This site is offered as a FREE service and allows individuals and the Police to post information (including photographs) regarding missing persons. This process allows critical information to reach the widest possible community in a very quick time and remains available until the missing person has been located.

What to Do If Your Child Is Missing

Now, as an entrepreneur or small business person, what should you do if your child is missing? Information gleaned from The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) website, suggested the following:

  • If your child is missing from home, search the house checking closets, piles of laundry, in and under beds, inside large appliances, and inside vehicles, including barrel’s wherever a child may crawl or hide in.
  • If you still cannot find your child, immediately call your nearest police station.
  • If your child disappears in a store, notify the store manager or security office. Then immediately call the police.
  • When you call the police, provide your child’s name, date of birth, height, colour of eyes, weight, distinguishing marks, and any other unique identifiers such as eyeglasses and braces. Tell them when you noticed that your child was missing and what clothing he or she was wearing.
  • Request that your child’s name and identifying information be immediately entered into the National Crime Information Centre Missing Person File.
  • After you have reported your child missing to the police (927-7778 or Toll Free: 1-888-991-5081) and the Hear the Children Cry Committee (929-0431, 8220483, 822-7658;

Report the Missing Child Sighting

On the other hand and while in your normal course of doing business, what if you believe that you have seen a missing child? It’s very simple: Call the local police immediately, even if it requires putting in a 119, 811 (Operation Kingfish) or 311 (Crime Stop) call. Be prepared to give details of:

  • Where you saw the child (the more exact the location you can supply the better).
  • When you saw the child (the more exact the time you can supply the better).
  • What the child was wearing.
  • How the child’s hair was cut, and what colour it was.
  • Any adults that were with the child, including physical descriptions.
  • If you heard the child say any adult’s name.
  • If you heard any adult say the child’s name.
  • Why you knew/suspected that this child is missing. Did you see this child in an Email, on a website or the local news? Do you think you know the child’s real name?
  • Any other details you remember that you think might be helpful.

Leave the Investigation to the Experts

If you think that you have seen a missing child then your first responsibility is to call the police. It is not your responsibility to follow the child, or any adults that may be with him/her, nor would it be in anyone’s best interest for you to do so. Instead, concentrate on collecting as many details as possible regarding the sighting so that if the police need you to testify about the incident later you can do so to the best of your ability. Remember, you are not a professional and you could put the child in greater danger if you attempt any sort of rescue.

Be Prepared to Work with the Authorities

Reporting a missing child sighting is not a matter of a simply putting in a phone call and then going on your way. If you believe that you have seen a missing or abducted child then be prepared to work with the authorities to try to bring this child home. At the very least you will need to spend time discussing the sighting with the police, possibly being interviewed by more than one officer or contact person. If the child is rescued you again may need to be interviewed and/or confirm that this is the child you had seen, and if the abductor is prosecuted there is a chance that you may need to testify in court as to what you saw. These events won’t require a significant investment of your time, but they could change the missing child’s life forever.

If you believe that you have seen a missing child, please take the time to report this sighting to the local police. These officers are the closest authorities to the sighting and they will be able to start work on the investigation immediately. Do not attempt to make contact or rescue the child yourself, but do be prepared to work with the police as needed. You never know, all that may be standing between a missing child and his/her family is your report.