EDITORIAL: Not reporting missing kids is a crime; should it be a felony?

2011-07-17T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Not reporting missing kids is a crime; should it be a felony? Twin Falls Times-News
July 17, 2011 12:00 am

The dean of the Idaho state Senate — and the chairman of its Judiciary Committee — has signed on to a national effort to enact tough new punishments for parents who don’t tell police that a child has gone missing.

According to the Idaho Reporter, Sen. Denton Darrington, R-Declo, is working with the Idaho Prosecuting Attorneys Association on legislation that would likely make failure to report a child missing within 24 hours a felony. Under current Idaho law, it’s a misdemeanor. Failure to report the death of a child within an hour would also be considered a major crime.

That’s in response to the July 5 acquittal of Casey Anthony, a Florida woman who had been charged with first degree murder in the death of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee. Casey Anthony failed to report her daughter missing; six months later Caylee’s remains were found in wooded area near her grandparents’ home.

“... we’re also going into another statute or two, dealing with missing or abused children,” Darrington told the Idaho Reporter.

In the wake of the Anthony verdict, 1.2 million people signed a petition on Change.org calling for “Caylee’s Law.” That includes more than 4,000 Idahoans, and their signatures are being passed onto their state and federal lawmakers.

State Sen. Tim Corder, R-Mountain Home, is skeptical that it would actually save lives.

“... studies show that, particularly with child abuse, felonies are not a deterrent,” Corder writes on his blog. “If the person responsible for the notification were also the perpetrator of the abduction or death then the additional felony is meaningless. If the persons responsible for the notifications were not the perpetrator but rather demonstrated poor judgment or were simply unable to comply, for some technical reason, then what would the felony gain? There remain areas of Idaho that do not have telephone service within an hour. Each year there are people who get lost in Idaho where family and friends search before reporting the absence. It is not difficult to find those who have been successful in finding loved ones at an hour well outside the 24th. A felony for those searching or grieving somehow does not seem like justice either.”

While that’s true, it’s hard to believe that an Idaho prosecutor would charge — or a jury convict — anyone who was unable to report a child missing because of distance or lack of phone service.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 2,000 American kids go missing every day — and 91 percent of them are back home within 24 hours. Longer than that, the odds grow longer.

Of American’s 1.7 million runaway kids, only 357,600 are reported to police, according to NCMEC. About 1.3 million of those children are gone from 24 hours to six months.

Why does that matter? Because 60 percent of the quarter-million 10-to-17-year-olds involved in commercial sexual exploitation nationwide are runaways.

There’s no question that time is the enemy in the search for missing children. It remains to be seen what all Darrington’s proposed legislation entails, but saving even a small number is certainly worth Darrington’s – and the entire legislature’s – time and consideration.

Copyright 2015 Twin Falls Times-News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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