For any family, it is an extremely difficult time when someone goes missing.
But when the person who goes missing is a child, it is every parent’s worst nightmare.
Figures from the UK Missing Person Bureau show that of the 121,726 missing incidents in 2012/13, a total of 77,965 involved children aged from 0 to 17. The highest proportion of those who went missing during that period fell within the 15-17 age group (43,310) with 12-14 year olds close behind (29,182).
In total, children made up 64 per cent of all the missing incidents in the UK in 2012/13. Buxton Section Inspector Martin Coey, who has many years experience of dealing with missing persons, said when it comes to children who go missing, many are simply testing the boundaries.
“They tend to be very vulnerable, going through a difficult time in their life where they will often go missing for short periods,” he said.
“The danger is who has talked to them, what has happened to them and who has influenced them while they have been missing.
“There are a lot of dangers out there, especially now with online grooming, sexual exploitation and drugs. It doesn’t happen to all of them but children are certainly a lot more vulnerable when they are out of their family unit because they are more easily influenced.
“And they haven’t got life skills. There’s quite a few schemes about which work well because they talk to young people about their reasons for going missing and work to educate them on the dangers.”
With all missing people, police assess them into low, medium or high risk and then allocate the appropriate resources.
But children are always one of the top priorities for police.
“Anybody under-18 or above 65 will always be high risk,” Inspector Coey said.
“Statistics say that 80 per cent of children return within 48 hours and 70 per cent return within 24-hours so they tend to go missing for far shorter periods of time.
“This is an extremely safe area, it is one of the safest areas in the country.
“We will always respond proactively to find someone and we never want to criminalise people, we just want to find them to ensure their safety.”