Missing teens, how they make the news

Sometimes cases are classic runaways and sometimes teens truly find themselves in dangerous situations. This is when police or family members solicit the media’s help; but with great power comes great responsibility in how and when we report the cases.

Five cases were reported this week. 

From the moment we get a tip of a missing teen 9 On Your Side is always investigating and asking questions.


Our job is not only to help authorities in locating them but it’s also making sure we aren’t desensitizing our viewers. Reporting a runaway teen is very different from a missing teen.


In our editorial meetings we make sure we understand the case and the distinction. “It’s really hard to define the two; a kid can be abducted or they can tell their parents they were leaving and left.” Sheriff Neil Elks said.

9 On Your Side will always report cases when a teen is in danger. However making that distinction is not so black and white anymore.

“Not knowing the whereabouts of a child, you don’t know whether or not a child is truly in danger. If the child has been missing 24-48 hours and goes on, how is that child surviving?” Elks added.

When investigating cases, a deputy ask themselves, is a child with a guardian, are they living on the street and if so, how are they surviving.

“You know, we look at everything. What are the true indicators under our nose. It’s a case by case situation for us.”

These questions are very important in determining what is needed to locate a teen. The sheriff’s office has seen an influx in reports since they started to put pressure on parents. 


In 2012 deputies charged the mother of a teen involved in the Hustle Mart murders for not knowing their child’s whereabouts. The sheriff takes these instances very seriously.

“If they allow that child to go out and stay gone for 24-48 hours, they contributed to a delinquency of a minor.”

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