Most incidents of missing persons involve children aged between 12 and 17, new data reveals.
The overall number of missing related calls received by police forces across England and Wales police forces fell from 405,798 in 2017/18 to 382,960 in 2018/19.
However, the number of missing incidents related to children aged between 12-17 in 2018/19 was 165,932 or 51.7%. This is the highest number across all age ranges.
Responding to the data released by the National Crime agency which accounted for two years’ worth of data around the number of people that go missing in the UK, Iryna Pona, Policy Manager at The Children’s Society, said: “The data today highlights just how much of a concern children going missing should be, as those aged 12 to 17 represent by far the biggest group.”
“Children going missing it is always a cause for concern as they may be in danger of serious exploitation. Worryingly, almost 18,000 incidents involving a child had sexual exploitation flagged as a potential risk,” she added.
Girls made up 78,221 of the missing incidents and boys made up 82,063. The main reason children gave for going missing was issues with relationships at 21%.
In England and Wales, 17,940 of all missing incidents involving children had a child sexual exploitation flag associated with them. Of these, 69% involved girls and 26% involved boys while in 5% of the cases, the gender was unknown.
In England and Wales 43% of missing children returned home voluntarily compared to 30% of missing adults. Police found children in 29% of missing incidents whereas with adults, police found 44%.
Iryna Pona at The Children’s Society said: “While we welcome the data releases today, we are also concerned that some information is not available, for example numbers of children going missing as a result of criminal exploitation or the whole picture of children going missing from care. Looked after children are not only more likely to go missing but many go missing from placements outside their home authorities. They will often have already had very traumatic lives and be even more vulnerable to exploitation. It is therefore vital that all police forces are made to collect this data, so the right safeguarding measures can be put in place to protect them from further harm.
“Protecting missing children should be seen as a joint responsibility for all agencies involved. Children must be offered a return home interview when they return from their missing episode. This should be followed by meaningful support to help them resolve the issues that contributed to them running away. The gaps in data once again show the urgency for the government to introduce a national missing persons database,” she concluded.