COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Friday, May 25 marks National Missing Children's Day.
The day was first observed in 1983 by former President Ronald Reagan following a series of child abductions.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, roughly 800,000 children are reported missing yearly in the United States.
Columbus currently has 17 missing juveniles.
Lt. Joyce Dent-Fitzpatrick with the Special Victims Unit at the Columbus Police Department says the majority of the current missing cases in the area all have something in common.
"We don't have the same cases we used to have 20 to 25 years ago. Most of our missing juveniles are falling under runaway status," says Dent-Fitzpatrick.
Dent-Fitzpatrick says there is a noticeable spike in teen runaways, but they still treat every case with the same immediacy.
There is also a heightened sense of urgency in order to prevent runaway/missing cases from becoming more serious, such as abduction, kidnapping, or sex trafficking cases.
"If they leave voluntarily on their own, and somebody kidnaps them, abducts them or uses them for human trafficking, our whole investigation has to change," says Dent-Fitzpatrick.
Dent-Fitzpatrick says regardless of the circumstances, it's parents, guardians and the communities' responsibility to join together to help bring missing kids and teens home safely.
"There's no 24-hour waiting period if you know that it's out of character for someone to leave car keys and money. You don't have to wait 24 hours to report that person," Dent-Fitzpatrick said.
To bring awareness to missing juveniles, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children asks people to share a poster of the missing child on social media. Organizers believe this simple act can help bring a child home safe.
Missing Children in Columbus:
- Jasmine Gary (B/F) DOB: July 31, 2001
- Javon Parkman (B/M) DOB: August 29, 2002
- William Straling (W/M) DOB: January 30, 2002
- Quintavis Jones (B/M) DOB: November 26, 2001
- Marlon Jones (B/M) DOB: June 25, 2002
- Tekonnia McPherson (B/F) DOB: January 25, 2003
- Meaghan Kenner (Biracial/F) DOB: August 14, 2001
- Jasmine Broom (B/F) DOB: April 10, 2001
- Deandre Mercer (B/M) DOB: April 21, 2001
- Jarvis Woodiff (B/M) DOB: August 21, 2001
- Demarqueia Brantley (B/M) DOB: June 24, 2001
- Symone Willis (B/F) DOB: April 11, 2001
- Nicholas Raybon (W/M) DOB: June 21, 2001
- Harrison Cruz-Perez (W/M) DOB: October 04, 2000
- Luis Torres-Delgado (Hispanic/M) DOB: December 12, 2001
- Destiny Knutson (W/F) DOB: May 25, 1999
- Cheyanne Milam (W/F) DOB: May 24, 1999