Missing persons reports are the seventh most frequent call to the Saskatoon Police Service (SPS) and the third most frequent investigation and numbers are on the rise.
In the six month period from Sept. 30, 2017 to April 1, 2018 there were 1,603 missing persons reports filed with the SPS. That’s an average of nearly nine missing persons report per day compared to an average of seven or eight per day in 2017.
“We don’t know specifically why those numbers are increasing but we’re working continuously to bring those numbers down,” SPS Insp. Russ Freisen said.
Since 2017, two constables per platoon are assigned to all missing persons reports during their four-day shifts. Being more in tune with Saskatoon’s missing youth has resulted in the missing being found sooner, but it has not curbed the number of reports being filed.
Of those reported missing – 952 calls originated from just 16 addresses. Often times the addresses are group homes and foster care homes.
“Kids would go back to mom and dad, grandma, grandpa and usually would return within 24 – 48 hours,” said Deb Davies, the executive director of the Saskatchewan Foster Families Association.
Davies has fostered nearly 50 children over the years and says the behaviour isn’t unusual.
With female youth reported missing, 90 per cent are habitually missing, meaning they’ve previously been reported missing two or more times. Similarly, 87 per cent of male youth reported missing are habitual cases.
“The Saskatoon Police Service takes every single missing person report that is reported to us and we investigate it with the same fervor whether it’s the first time for that individual or the 50th time for that individual,” Freisen said.
It’s a resource heavy task and a response many youth view as unnecessary.
According to the executive director at EGADZ, a downtown youth centre “they don’t see themselves as missing, they see themselves as running.”
EGADZ’s Don Meikle has struck a youth committee, consulting with six youth who are habitually missing to learn why, in hopes of finding a solution.
Among a variety of recommendations is a suggestion to group and foster homes to ask habitually missing youth to write down where they’re most likely to be when missing. The youth committee suggests keeping the document sealed if or until it is needed, at which point the information may be able solve a missing persons report promptly and ease some of the pressure on the SPS.
A full statistical report is being presented at Thursday’s board of police commissioners meeting, in hopes of finding a solution.