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Sheriff Speaks About Missing Children Problem

COMANCHE CO., Okla_ It's a shocking number: according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, approximately 800,000 children are reported missing each year.

While some may have been abducted, others are runaways from right here in our area.

According to law enforcement, that number grows during this time of year. That's why officials are asking parents to be on the lookout for those children as well as the warning signs.

Comanche County Sheriff Kenny Stradley said the very first thing officers try to find out is whether or not a child has a history of taking off in the past or if someone else has been involved. He said from there, most of the time they're able to rule out foul play in many runaway investigations. Even taking interest in your child's life and knowing its "ins and outs" before a situation happens will not only will keep you informed, but it could also save you a lot of heartache.

"I don't know what reason he would have to run off, but for some reason that day he just really, really wanted to get out," Lashonda Townsend said.

Her 15-year-old son, Jaquain, has been missing in Lawton for three weeks. After having problems in school, Jaquain walked out the door one afternoon and never returned. She said she's feared the worst ever since.

"He's very, very trustworthy," Lashonda said, "Even with people that he may meet. Nobody's seen him, but I get messages saying he's been seen here and there. I don't know for sure."

Lashonda is just one of the several mothers who have children unaccounted for in the area right now. With pressure from school from homework to bullies, Sheriff Stradley said runaways can be common this time of year. He said parents are the best source to their investigations.

"The first thing we do is talk to the parents," Stradley said. "Has he ever done this before? Did they go to school today, and they just didn't come home? All these kind of things help figure out where they may have went."

He said kids become runaways when they feel they have no way out of a situation. He said kids need to know leaving home can be extremely dangerous.

"You need to be careful of where you go and what you're doing because there are some bad people out there," Stradley said.

His message to kids and parents alike is to talk it out. He said families serve as the best sounding boards even in the toughest of times.

"If things are not going good, try to sit down and talk to somebody," Stradley said. "Sometimes, the communication with each other is the best thing you got going. ‘I don't like this, and I don't like this. Well, let's see how we can make this better for both of us.'"

Stradley wanted to stress that the best thing for parents to know is what your child is wearing everyday. Simple things like that and knowing who your child is friends with are crucial to the first hours that a child is missing.



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