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Missing: Why are there so many cases in Western New York?

Almost every week, there is a missing person reported on the news, and often it is a young person.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Police agencies have a lot of numbers, but behind every number is a person and a story. When it's a missing person, particularly a child, the story can be complicated.

New York State Police Troop A, which covers the eight counties of Western New York, had a total of 73 missing children reports in 2022.

"That number is a lot and it needs to be taken serious," Troop A Trooper James O'Callaghan said, adding that for New York State Police "time is important. The 'let's wait 24-hour thing,' that's gone." 

Buffalo Police provided 2 On Your Side the following information.

In 2022 they recorded 758 missing persons. This year they recorded 89. There was no breakdown provided of ages.

Sharod Jones of Buffalo was upset when his 13-year-old daughter went missing for one week. He said getting help from police in the beginning was a struggle. He said he was told "give us a day to, you know, find out what's going on. Give us 48 hours. We'll get back to you when we hear something. The heartbreaking part about that is my child could be dead."

Fortunately that was not the case. He said his daughter left because she wanted attention, which caused him to fear for her life.

Buffalo Police Lieutenant David Mann told 2 On Your Side "there should be no waiting" when a missing persons report comes to the attention of the department.

Beatrice Vargas' 16-year-old daughter went missing on January 2. Her mother says the teen ended up in a stranger's home on the opposite side of town.

"There's a lot of stories out there like mine," she said.

She wants law enforcement to do more.

"Take it more serious, listen, pay attention, sex trafficking is real. These children are missing. It's just not a simple runaway situation," Vargas said.

Kareema Morris started Bury The Violence after her 13-year-old niece was found dead in a yard.

"You have children who are simply said as runaways, but they're not running because they want to run," she said.

She works with families and even provides information to link them with needed services.

More disturbing for her is knowing that there are houses across the city where runaways will go.

When a child is reported missing to law enforcement, federal law requires that child be entered into the FBI's National Crime Information Center.

Morris was asked why teens seem to run.

"I wish I had a definite answer, but it's a layered situation," Morris said. "You have children that are prompted by their peers to hang out in these setbacks, kickbacks. Children who feel like they know more than their parents. They have arguments, and then you have children who are simply said as runaways, but they're not running because they want to run."

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