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Eighty-five children were reported missing this past festive season.
During what is known as the silly season and busiest time of the year, some youngsters disappeared from their homes and holiday destinations while others were abducted, bringing grief and sadness to their families.
According to Lieutenant-Colonel Stephanus van Deventer, the section commander of the SAPS bureau for missing persons, there was a slight increase in the number of missing children in December.
He said figures were, however, better than in previous years.
It is believed that a child goes missing every six hours in South Africa.
Van Deventer further revealed that over a thousand children were reported missing nationally in the past 12 months with the majority of them being young girls. He said the ratio was 60 percent girls to 40 percent boys.
Speaking on abductions Van Deventer said 12 children were abducted last year alone.
“We must keep in mind that some of these abductions were family abductions which means that the child was taken by a non-custodial parent after a divorce,” he said.
Of the missing children reported, 78 percent are often found within a period of two months.
Van Deventer said that, even so, the SAPS never closed a missing person inquiry until that person was found or his remains (which are forensically proven) had been recovered.
He said the SAPS could not comment on the deaths of missing persons due to the trauma and emotional effect on families or the public.
An example of this is that of an 11-year-old old boy from Jabavu in Soweto who was reported missing in early December. He was found dead in a dustbin a week later.
Van Deventer said there was no waiting period for reporting missing persons.
He, however, warned that hoax reports were a criminal offence as they depleted the state’s resources, adding that those responsible for reporting false information would be formally charged. – Noni Mokati
l To report missing persons or obtain assistance contact the Crime Stop toll-free number 08600 10111.
Tips to follow when a loved one goes missing:
l Ensure that you know and have the contact details and addresses of all your child’s friends. Make an effort to know who your child mingles with.
l Never leave young children unattended at any time and don’t trust anyone to look after your child even if its for a few minutes.
l Teach young children not to trust strangers and to scream as loud as they can if they feel uncomfortable and not to trust strangers that approach them.
l If you realise that your child is really missing (after consulting with friends, school or what cannot conform to normal behavioural pattern) go and report the child missing at your nearest police station, immediately.
l Lastly, try to annually take photos of your children so that you have a recent photograph of them should they go missing. This will assist the police and the public in finding them by broadcasting the photo and getting information from the general public.