By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
The number of juveniles in Cheyenne reported as runaways may appear to be higher than it actually is because of the way those reports are handled, the Cheyenne Police Department said in a social media post Thursday.
The department turned to its Facebook page to address questions regarding the number of juveniles reported as runaways in the area.
The department has received 56 reports of runaways so far this year, which is about on average compared to years prior. In 2020, the department saw 115 runaway cases, and all of the children were recovered, it said.
However, some have questioned the number of runaways reported by the department, in part because some children run away more than once in a short time period.
The department regularly uses social media to get the word out about the missing children, due to its immediacy and effectiveness, but that practice may make the runaway rate appear higher than it is, said Chief Mark Francisco.
“It is the policy of the CPD to thoroughly investigate all reports of runaway juveniles and missing persons,” Francisco said. “Social media has been a very effective tool allowing us to locate missing juveniles as quickly as possible during a time where they may be vulnerable.”
The department noted that minors run away for complex reasons that are different in each case.
A number of factors may put youth at an increased risk of running away or becoming homeless: feeling unsafe at home, family conflict and lack of acceptance of gender identity or sexual orientation, to name a few, the department’s post said.
“When a juvenile runs away, they have left home or a court-ordered facility without the permission of parents or legal guardian,” Juvenile Diversion Officer David Allen. “Kidnapping, on the other hand, is the physical taking or removal of a person from his or her home by the use of force, fraud, or coercion.”
Kidnappings by strangers on the street or online are rare in Cheyenne. Usually, this crime is committed by a person the child knows – such as a relative without custody.
The CPD hasn’t seen any kidnapping cases in 2021 and dealt with only one juvenile kidnapping case in 2020, which involved interference with custody.
“We want to thank the public for their engagement on our social media channels regarding this issue,” Francisco said. “Our community partnerships play an important role in keeping the citizens of Cheyenne safe.”