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Changes and improvements are being made in missing person cases in Leon County

Research shows that children are most likely to be reported missing
Posted at 6:38 PM, Jun 13, 2024
  • The Leon County Board of Commissioners recently received a report on the County's ability to further support law enforcement in amplifying alerts to the public regarding missing persons.
  • The Tallahassee Police Department has also made major changes to how it alerts neighbors to missing cases since the Lori Paige case.
  • Watch the video to hear from local law enforcement leaders about why changes and public campaigns are happening.

BROADCAST TRANSCRIPT:

Law enforcement and local leaders in Leon County say more work is needed to amplify missing person cases.

I'm looking into changes the Tallahassee Police Department has made since the Lori Paige case—and other local efforts to get children back home safely.

Research shows that children are most likely to be reported missing.

It's one reason why the Leon County Government is putting more resources towards cases of missing persons in our neighborhoods.

"We worked with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Leon County Sheriff's Office, just to see how it is that we can assist them," Kianna Gilley, Leon County Public Information and Communications Manager said.

The Leon County Board of Commissioners recently received a report on the County's ability to further support law enforcement in amplifying alerts to the public regarding missing persons.

"In our research when working on this item we found that approximately 840,000 folks go missing annually in the US and 85% of those are children," Gilley said.

The report recommends that the County conduct a public awareness campaign to drive the public to both state law enforcement platforms and local resources, such as the Leon County Sheriff's Office.

"They said, hey, it would be great if you could just educate the residents, just as we're doing on how to access the alerts and how to sign up for the alerts," Gilley said.

The Tallahassee Police Department has also made major changes to how it alerts neighbors to missing person cases since the Lori Paige case.

"We don't use runaway anymore on our missing person fliers," Lawrence Revell, Tallahassee Chief of Police said.

At the one-year mark of 13-year-old Lori Paige being reported missing, ABC27 sat down with TPD's Chief of Police to discuss lessons learned on improving missing person reports.

"The question came up, why, why do we do this?," Revell said. "What was the significance of putting that on there? And I just didn't like the fact that it was on there. Because for some people in our community, that may lessen the severity of it, if they see runaway, they think, oh, not a big deal, let's not waste a lot of resources on that, when in essence, that really has nothing to do with anything."

Missing person advocacy groups have long asked for changes nationwide in how missing children are classified when alerts are given to the community.

In 2023 TPD told WTXL 494 children under 18 were reported missing. As of May 31st, 2024, 3 remain open/active cases.

Between Jan 1 of this year up until June 1, TPD said 177 children under 18 were reported missing. And as of June 3rd, 2024, 6 remain open/active cases.

"We know people run away for a variety of cases, maybe they are just a rebellious youth or child, maybe there's a really bad situation at home, maybe, you know, there's mental issues involved," Revell said. "There are all different kinds of things that play into why someone may run away from home. But it really should have no bearing on how we investigate the case. And so that was really a change that was made."

Leon County's public awareness campaign will kickoff in September to coincide with Florida Missing Children’s Day.

Florida Missing Children's Day is observed annually on the second Monday of September. In 2024, it will be held on September 9.

Here's how you can help find missing people right now:

Florida Department of Law Enforcement Missing Persons Information Clearinghouse: This website is a central place for information on missing endangered persons in Florida. You can search for missing persons, register a missing person, learn more about missing person resources, and sign up for alerts here.

Tallahassee Police Department (TPD) Social Media: Follow TPD on social media platforms like Facebookand Twitter. Where they post updates about missing persons.