NEW YORK (NNPA) - One of the great undiscussed dilemmas plaguing this city is the number of runaways and abducted children. The numbers are staggering.
AMBER Ready Inc./Foundation estimates about 800,000 children are reported missing in America every year.
"The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime defines human trafficking as 'the acquisition of people by improper means such as force, fraud or deception, with the aim of exploiting them.' In New York, we have an epidemic of missing and 'alleged' runaways who are actually victims of criminal groups who are profiting off of their sexual labor," declared retired detective Marquez Claxton. "Local law enforcement, in spite of federal funding, does not adequately address or even acknowledge the existence of 'human trafficking' operations that are expanding throughout the Black and Latino community. Many of the listed 'runaways' are actually victims of human trafficking. Law enforce- ment in general only discusses human trafficking in terms of the Asian and Latino immigrant population while ignoring the threat to young and under-aged indigenous Black and Latino women."
In response to a series of questions, the police department told the Amsterdam News that they did have federal funds to "investigate human trafficking."
A Sgt. Nieves told the paper, "There is a unit in the police department that falls under the Organized Crime Control Bureau. The police department does receive funds from the government."
Deputy Commissioner of Public Information Paul Browne added, "The NYPD's Organized Crime Control Bureau has detectives dedicated to the investigation of human trafficking in which, typically, young women are exploited for purposes of prostitution."
Browne added, "So far this year, the NYPD has arrested over 200 individuals (and 366 last year) engaged in the promotion of prostitution which, as I said earlier, is often the ultimate outcome of human trafficking."
A mother, wanting to remain anonymous, recently contacted the Amsterdam News distraught that her daughter had been missing for several days. She feared the 16-year-old had fallen victim to a prostitution ring.
While this particular story has a happy ending with the teenaged girl being found hours later after news coverage and various phone calls helped create something of a groundswell, the child's mother complained about how law enforcement refused to label the case "abduction," as opposed to a "runaway."
"Our young girls between the ages of 11 and 16 are disappearing at alarming rates in our communities," said Tulani Kinard, activist and Brooklyn City Council candidate. "Much too often they are being written off as 'runaways.'
There is a definite rise in human trafficking, whether by abduction or being lured into a 'situation' from which there is no return. Once the label of being a 'runaway' is associated with a missing child police report, the case is easily put aside and forgotten. I am advocating that more state funds are allocated to support New York's landmark Safe Harbor for Exploited Youth Act. We have to protect our children."
As they prepare to launch the nation's first wireless child protection service and community predator program, AMBER Ready, Inc. and the AMBER Ready Foundation declared that as 50 million of America's children will return to school this fall; by summer, 1 million of them will be classified as missing or abducted. Working to reduce this number and to quickly recover those who are away from home, AMBER Ready, Inc. and the AMBER Ready Foundation will host the AMBER Ready Back-to-School Safety Weekend in Times Square, August 15-16.
Calling it "Child Safety in the palm of your hand," Kai D. Patterson, president and founder of AMBER Ready, said that the AMBER Ready Program incorporates a major technological advance in the effort to find missing or abducted children. Research has shown that missing or abducted children not recovered in the first four hours likely never will be. The program enables parents and guardians to store their children's photo, description and other valuable information in a profile in their wireless multimedia phones.
Patterson continued that if the unfortunate situation ever occurs, an AMBERReady subscriber can immediately transfer information to their local law enforcement agency, media stations, airports, and the AMBER Alert network, saving valuable time
AMBER Ready Inc./Foundation states that an estimated 1.3 million children actually go missing each year — going up 468 percent from 1982 to 2000. Blacks and Latinos, the least informed about what do when children are abducted, equaled 65 percent of the total non-family abductions, with African- Americans making up 42 percent of that group and Hispanics 23 percent.
AMBER Ready Foundation/Inc. insists that the ahead-of-time collation of vital data, including a photo and identifying characteristics; ultimately saves time in the instance that a search needs to be established.
Patterson maintains that, while it varies state to state, there is typically more than a two hour delay in making initial children reports, and the vast majorities (74 percent) of abducted children who are murdered are dead within the first three hours of abduction.
Meanwhile, the New York State Missing Children's Report shows that the number of missing children has actually decreased since 2007. However, it remains a dangerous issue that affects the lives of children and their families, especially in New York City.
Over 5,000 missing child cases were reported in 2008 within the five boroughs alone. An estimated 53 percent of the reported cases were for children ages 13-15; 49 percent of them were Black and 60 percent of them were female.
The national number of missing children has decreased by 3 percent to 20,414 in the year 2008. According to Missing and Exploited Children Clearinghouse Annual Report, "Nearly all missing children cases were reported as suspected runaways (92.3 percent).
"Abduction cases accounted for approximately 1 percent of the total reports, and abductions committed by family members comprised the most frequent form of abduction." There have been an increasing number of missing females in these cases. In 2008, missing females were up to a booming 94 percent from ages 13 and over. Statistics have shown that the number of male cases makes up 40 percent of the total number of missing children.
According to a 2009 article in Police magazine, most runaways leave home as a result of discontent with their current status quo, whether it is financial, social or academic. However, there is still no underlying cause of runaway cases, making it difficult for police intervention at times.
More than 75 percent of runaways return home within two weeks, making the remaining runaway cases low priority to the police department.
According to Police magazine, runaway cases are sometimes viewed as "family problems that have been foisted on law enforcement."
Many parents are critical of the police department's indirect negligence toward runaways, fearing that children may fall subject to sexual abuse, international abduction or various forms of harassment.
The staggering number of missing children in New York City is unfortunate and families continue to search for their loved ones. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children advises parents to teach their children of the potential dangers of runaway attempts as well as inform children of effective safety precautions, including Internet safety, to avoid possible abduction.
It also advised that parents maintain a recent photo and proper identification, including the heights and weights of their children, in the event that they go missing, allowing police to immediately embark on search efforts for that child. If you have any questions or any information about missing children, call 1-800-FIND-KID.
Kinard concluded, "Our families and communities need more support for social and family service programs that do the preventive/safety awareness work as well as the long-term caring of children who are victims of the crime of human trafficking."
For more information, call 1-866-60-AMBER or log on to www.amberready.com. Also for more information visit missingkids.com.
Erica Brown and Oscar McDonald contributed to this story.