Most children reported missing are runaways, says City Police Commissioner
The number of ‘missing child’ cases registered in the city is increasing steadily every year, going by the crime statistics of the city police. Twenty-six cases of children going missing were registered in the city till October this year.
Earlier this month, the police managed to trace five teenagers from the city who had been reported missing. An advisory released by the Supreme Court earlier this year recommended that each complaint of a missing child be initially presumed an abduction or trafficking case. In Kochi, however, most children reported missing are runaways.
“I am yet to come across a case in which a missing child from the city turned out to have been trafficked. In most cases, children run away from home due to harassment, or under the influence of friends, or other pressures,” said City Police Commissioner K.G. James.
Cases do arise where children from other States are trafficked to Kochi for labour or sex work. In such cases, the police take the child to a shelter home until they can be rehabilitated back to their home States with the help of child welfare organisations.Special focus
“The police take missing person cases very seriously and we give special focus to cases of missing children,” said the commissioner. If a child reported missing is not found within two weeks, a special investigation team is given charge of the case. A nodal officer has also been appointed to coordinate activities to trace missing children, said Mr. James. The Supreme Court advisory also dictates that a specially trained juvenile welfare officer be present in each police station. The commissioner said the city was in the process of implementing the measure in police stations across the city.
Once the child is traced, the police are expected to contact the District Child Welfare Committee, who then counsel the child to discover the reason why the child felt the need to run away from home. This procedure, however, is not always followed, said K.K. Shaju, member, Child Welfare Committee. “There have been some cases in which children have been handed back to their parents straight away without the involvement of the committee. Ideally, the committee should be informed right away. We try to find out why the child felt the home was unsafe in the first place,” he said.
Mr. Shaju said most children reported missing in the city left home with friends or eloped in the name of love. “They feel unsafe at home and run away because they are unable to cope with some problem. Often, they are uncertain where they're headed. This may lead them to more trouble where other persons or adults take advantage of them. Our aim is to counsel the children and take necessary action to ensure such incidents are not repeated,” said Mr. Shaju.