Juneau runaway reports jump 27 percent in 2007

Authorities are having trouble explaining spike

Posted: Thursday, July 17, 2008

From 2004 through 2006, the number of runaways reported to police annually ranged between 280 and 290. In 2007 the number jumped to 400. Local authorities are having trouble explaining a 27 percent spike in runaway reports.

Juneau police keep records of all crimes reported and some service calls ranging from criminal homicide to gambling offenses citywide. Tabulations and results are sent to the FBI each winter.

Lane Taylor, program coordinator at Cornerstone, a youth shelter offering up to three days respite from the streets of the capital, said his organization did not see evidence that actual runaways increased last year.

"We haven't been overflowing," Taylor said.

Juneau police Sgt. David Campbell said the spike could result from any number of things, including "heavy users." It's possible that parents dealing with runaways have become more educated and call police more often to report a smaller core of runaways, he said.

"Statistics don't always paint the whole picture," Campbell said.

Last winter, Taylor estimated that on any given day between 10 and 15 kids were on the streets as runaways.

The police department's role in Juneau's runaway problem is one of service, Campbell said. It's not against the law and there is no curfew to enforce, he said.

On the other hand, Taylor said the children and young adults he works with might not make police reports and the actual number could be higher.

"A lot of our clients go unreported to police," he said.

Kids run away for any number of reasons: a disruptive home life, "extreme" family conflict, sexual, psychological, physical and emotional abuse, alcohol, drugs, crime and domestic violence, Lane said.

"There's no rhyme nor reason," Lane said. "There is no busy season."

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