Youth Services Of Tulsa Reaching Out To Runaways

Thursday, November 29th 2007, 9:52 pm
By: News On 6

Each month 150 kids are reported as runaways to Tulsa Police. Right now, police don't have the resources to do much more than enter their names into a national database. News On 6 crime reporter Lori Fullbright reports when 13-year-old Cori Baker was first reported missing, police believed she was a runaway.

Police learned Cori Baker had gotten a ride from school with her sister's boyfriend, Marquis Bullock. Cori Baker’s sister told police her boyfriend was with her after that, so, they figured Cori ran away. It wasn't until a couple days later when the sister admitted she lied. Police realized she'd been the victim of something tragic.

Around two million teenagers a year are living on the streets, in filthy, dangerous conditions. They have run away or been kicked out of their homes. They scrounge, scavenge and steal, to survive.

"They're totally vulnerable and young people can often find a place to stay, but, it virtually always comes with strings," said Youth Services of Tulsa Executive Director James Walker.

Youth Services of Tulsa runs the only emergency shelter in the community for teenagers along with a street outreach, drop-in center and health education for kids.

Walker says there are many misconceptions about runaways.

"A lot of people think they all run to the coast, lay on the beach, surf. Most of these kids are within 50 miles of home. They have left home for a reason, rather than going somewhere," said Walker.

People were asked to put green light bulbs in their porch lights during November as a show of support for the runaway problem.

Experts say the answer is for adults to stay connected with teenagers, but Walker says society no longer sees kids as needing help and protection, but rather as someone to be feared.

"We have become so isolated. Kids are totally vulnerable out there and they need to be thought of as kids," said Walker.

There are four Tulsa detectives now assigned to work crimes against 11 to 15-year-olds which includes, sex abuse, physical abuse, kidnappings, attempted abductions, missing kids and runaways and since being a runaway isn't a crime, it's often gets lost in the shuffle.

Even if police find the runaway, if the parent doesn't get a warrant, police can't return them, they simply take them to the shelter, where they can runaway again.

For more information on Youth Services of Tulsa, click here.

Watch the video: Reaching Out To Runaways