Experts: Runaways may face the same dangers as missing children

Police won’t be as aggressively looking for escapees as they do with child kidnappings, but a local expert said both faced similar dangers.

Corpus Christi, Texas — Halle Brinson left home in September. 12 didn’t have a car or phone, but her parents said she did leave a note.

“There’s a trend of friends selling friends for sex, and that’s our biggest fear right now, and that’s why we’re so worried, and that’s why every clue, no matter what time of night, we run out of this door,” Brinson’s father, Michael Dulinski, said.

Police don’t issue alerts or search teams to children they think have run away, not to those missing, but according to experts in human sex trafficking, these children may face some of the same dangers.

“We’re getting calls of all sorts of situations, obviously our route is child trafficking and we want to prevent that, and getting out of control is a high risk for child trafficking,” said Tina Canary, operations manager at New Life Refuge Ministries. “They are.”

Canary said runaways should be taken very seriously because they could be in danger.

She said that by 2021, 25,000 children will be reported missing to the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children — one in six of whom may be sexually trafficked.

“We think it’s actually higher. Because about 1 percent of victims have recovered,” she said.
Because they don’t have a lot of money, Canary said the fugitives are vulnerable to criminals.

“When children go out on their own and find themselves in need — thirsty, hungry, scared — that’s when the traffickers come out,” she said.

Shirley Dulinski and Michelle Dulinski said they had been worried about being sick for more than two years and had been hoping their 16-year-old daughter would not be in danger when she ran away from home.

“We feel like we’re getting closer, but at the same time we feel like we’re getting farther and farther,” says Micheal Dulinsky.

The Dulinskis say they have been searching for Harley nonstop, tracking down every clue or lead with the help of police.

But as the leads turn into dead ends and the days without Harry grow longer, they can’t help but wonder the worst.

“If you hear the news, go home,” Shirley Dulinski said. “Please. I love you very much.”

A question we often ask in our newsrooms is why law enforcement and the media focus on some of these cases and not others.

It is our policy at 3NEWS to be careful when identifying minors and to follow police instructions to see if a youth is considered at risk. Police will make decisions on a case-by-case basis.

“There’s a big difference between a missing person and a runaway,” said CCPD public information officer Lt. Michael Pena. “So, a missing person is just a missing person. A runaway is usually a teenager who’s been through it, or you know, a parent who knows the child is going to run away.”

So when you hear that a missing person isn’t widely publicized, it doesn’t mean the police aren’t investigating.

When they determine that someone is in danger, they raise the alarm because they believe the public can play an important role in bringing that person home.

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