M is for Missing Persons

If you have found my blog, chances are, you already know my speil. I’m a private investigator. I specialize in missing and exploited persons.” I’m still working on a way to make it a paying gig, whether though patrons and benefactors, speaking and lectures, or maybe grants and agencies. As long as families don’t have to pay or fundraise, I’m in.

Anyhow, let’s touch on the “missing” part of that bit. Did you onow there is no waiting period to report a person missing? Each agency or municipality has authority to set a time period or litmus style requirement, but at the core, you can report someone missing as soon as you have reason to believe that something is wrong?

I’ve been on the phone with a detective and said, “this 18 yo left home without money or a power cable for her phone. She’s not been home or at work in 11 days.” And the detective refused to file a report. His agency is getting a refresher on missing persons protocols from the Fusion Center. Since then, we’ve spoken and he says they will take any report.

Here’s some tips for family members and parents when reporting a person :

DO:

Give description with distinguishing marks, last known outfit.

Tell officer if charging cable, electronic devices, or money are missing.

Tell officer of any history of abuse, drug use, mental illness, or recent (6 mos) significant events like bullying, suicide attempt, loss of family member, break up, etc.

Tell officer if person is undergoing any type of treatment and all medications.

Have the police put the child is the NCMEC database.

Only share the police or a professional made poster.

DO NOT:

Call to “report a runaway.” You are reporting a person missing. The term runaway will breed apathy and disinterest.

Make accusations, act a fool, or broadcast dirty laundry online. If you can’t be civil, shut up.

Be dismissive of the dangers, especially in front of police. If you broadcast your disinterest or disfunction, they will be equally as dismissive.

Lie or exagerate to officers or detectives. Especially about the roles of friends. Most missing teen cases I have, I compare notes with the detective, almost daily. More oftent than not, parents will tell us different stories, usually to create a sense of urgency or to get more people working the case. It does not work and hurts credibility. Once we see that happen, we begin withholding new details and not returning parent calls.

Withold details because they are embarassing or painful. Drug use, history or abuse, mental issues, whatever, are vital for search team members. They also give detectives a clear idea of risk factors for trafficking.

Here’s the last tip:

Have a united front online and on TV. I have consulted on cases from around the country and the best way to get dropped by the media is to have family drama get played out in public. Designate a single spokes person and everyone else shut up. Every. Single. Time.

And here is the last thing. Sometimes, nothing works and cases get ignored, fall through the cracks, or are straight up mishandled. Do not give up. There are people like me that won’t.

Since I have you here, can you share Lisa’s poster? I’m still in school, as it were, learning how to do what I need to to find her. I will find her. I could use your help though. Share this. Talk about her. Talk about how her dad answers his phone with a cracking voice when he knows it’s about her. Talk about how a 24 year old black woman was last seen half dressed, walking into the woods, and police closed up shop and said she’s fine. Talk about how there’s been no activity on her accounts, credit, or close knit family for over a year and police still insist she is not in danger. Do that for me please?

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H is for How Things Don’t Change

I’ve been doing abolition work for a couple years now. It feels like herding cats most days. I still run into cops and civilians that think children can consent to being prostitutes… and want to arrest them! I still have to tell other abolitionists to stop saying “runaway”. I still get shocked deer in the headlight looks when I correct stereotypes. I still have to fight with people that would legalize prostitution and lower consent ages.

I would love to say it’s less often, but it’s not. It would seem, that as technology has grown so fast, that ignorance and self interest have overtaken any sense of social responsibility most people have. Here is a top example:

If you talk to anyone in the “rescuing trafficking victims” racket, backpage is one of the easiest places to procure a child for sale. Now, I have mixed feelings on this shutdown, but not cause I think being sold like chattle is an inalienable human right. Frankly, it won’t attack demand or even slow down traffickers. Now, I’ll have to work ten times harder and probably have to do something unethical to ensure I can still rescue kids. I do mean kids.

The average age of prostitutes in the US is 16…. AVERAGE AGE.

Here’s one of my posts from last year, upon learning that several of the abolitionist and prolife groups I support, and work with, had been disinvited from attending the march.

Let me end with this. Even if you (wrongly) support legalization of prostitution, wouldn’t you still be opposed to enslaving men, women, and children? Can’t those two sentiments occupy the same headspace?

G is for Gullibility

I admit, occasionally, I will paruse comment sections on memes or news articles. I’ve finally learned not to actually comment on them, but I do marvel at the collective absence of fact or critical thinking that fills comment after comment.

“I feel very strongly that…. (insert technically inaccurate statement) is (insert subjective judgement).”

That’s probably the most common one I see. It’s closely followed by a handful of other emotion based, and thoroughly subjective type of statements. Normally, I regard these as “weaponized emotions” because, if anyone fails to validate the statement, this hurts feelings… not the actual topic.

Anyhow, I am beginning to wonder if these people are not just poor debaters, but actually victims of some kind of plot. Like, did they get tricked into this? Are their arguments and beliefs a kind of magic bean that they have been told will transform their lives?

If that is the case, it’s almost more disturbing because Jack wasn’t just gullible, he was kind of a murdering thief. Upon discoving someone different from him, he decided the person was a monster and therefore it was okay to rob and murder him. I never could figure out why that was a happy ending.

But… it does make me think.

F is for Figuroutable

I have this framed in my bedroom next to a quote by Henry Ford. “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right.”

These are not the most common motivational quotes, or even the best. That doesn’t stop them from being right, though. In a world of collective helplessness and victimhood, I find solace in these reminders. It gives me hope that I am not alone in a sea of futility. There are other people that see the same problems I do, and are working on them too.

One quote I neglected to frame is from my son’s favorite childhood movie, Robots. If you haven’t seen it, I suggest you do that… now. Big Weld is the proverbial “wizard” in the lead character’s quest to save robotkind. Mr. Weld built an empire of invention and charity with a single philosophy. “See a need, fill a need.”

Perhaps, today, we can all go find a problem or a need and choose to be part of the solution?

E is for Exploitative Reporting of Exploitation

I just saw an advocacy organization sharing a news article about two women who got roofied by some other women at a bar. The article’s claim was that the victims think they were targeted by sex traffickers. Let me be clear: I am not victim blaming or doubting. I am willing to believe that this incident happened. My commentary is about their perception of their attacker’s intent as well as the focus of the media/public.

I’ll put the link to the original article below, but the jist is, three young women went to a bar and were provided drinks by a couple other young ladies. One of the three was the designated driver. She did not imbibe; and after twenty minutes or so, saw her friends behaving overly drunk and impaired, so she intervened. Police are investigating.

The news reports that the young women think they were being targeted by sex traffickers. I actually think they are right, but not in the way they think. The fact of the matter is, kidnapping is not in the MO of traditional traffickers. Drugging and removing two or three women from a social setting [to sell on the sex circuit] would attract attention. Once they’re recovered, it would create outcry. That is in direct conflict with the current status quo of grooming vulnerable men, women, and children into burning necessary bridges, creating the proper circumstance, then leaving of their own accord. When these people are recovered, the media rarely gives the whole story. Public perception is either that everything is hunky dory or that these troubled individuals made bad decisions and need help. Very little attention is paid to how or why.

I feel strongly that this particular report is going to do more harm than good. The public is ignorant to what trafficking really is, how prolific, and really, the nature of the crimes done. It’s irresponsible to discuss this incident without the context of what typical trafficking looks like. We must be articulate to educate.

That being said, I’m a little more … alarmist… forward thinking… conservative… I’m not sure what the term would be. I do not accept that trafficking can be or should be narrowly defined or confined to forced prostitution. I foresee a day when trafficking will include all forms of exploitation in which force, coercion, threat, or authority is used to generate a profit. This would include (but not be limited to) sextortion, child pornography, amateur & professional pornography, child molestation, prostitution, and servitude. Including all these would require a massive overhaul of legal definitions and wide acceptance that bartered goods/service, digital currency, and power brokering are forms of currency and profit.

This brings us back to these young women. If things played out the way I suspect they would have, I think the likely outcome would have been in the form of amateur pornography. The details are too much for this forum, but suffice to say, there is a demand for pornography that depicts unresponsive women being exploited. A very high demand.

Therein lies the problem. Had the friend not been present and the drugging been effective, the law would not have treated their attackers as traffickers. They would have faced a slew of charges, but not that big fat federal beef that could put them all in federal prison for consecutive terms.

I know victims of this form of ambush pornography, who were drugged or taken advantage of while inebriated. I know a couple that fell prey to modeling scams and ended up in threatening situations that they didn’t know how to get out of. They don’t expect to get justice because most people view pornography as victimless and (in spite of 20 years of date rape education) still feel that partaking on alcohol or drugs, or answering an ad is consenting to anything that happens after. We pretend that this has changed, but it hasn’t.

I say this more often than I like, but I don’t know the right answer here. Do we criminalize more things? Mandatory minimum sentences? I know what I’d like to see, but I’m not an expert. The only thing I absolutely know for sure, is that we need to be talking about it. Talk about date rape, pornography, voyeurism, crimes against children, trafficking. When one is brought up, discuss them all. When NONE are brought up, discuss them all. There are a handful of things that [I know for certain] absolutely must happen if we’re going to impact the supply and demand for sex and labor exploitation, but the absolute FIRST thing that must happen is the dialogue.

Link to article here

D is for Don’t Stay Silent

As humans, Americans, we have a handful of places that we each expect certain amounts of safety and privacy. It is up to us to fight to protect thise and be verbal when they are threatened, particularly where kids are involved.

I worry that identity politics has made people, businesses especially, too afraid to enforce policy and law. I’ve read the articles about men walking and lounging naked in women’s locker rooms, and so much worse. We’re supposed to accept this, because he identifies as a woman. Six months before that rule change, what he did was actually a crime that could have gotten him on a lifelong sex offender roll. What about places that have locker rooms for children only?

What are parents supposed to do when a grown man exposes himself to children to get his rocks off? What if he does this where no parents or adults are even permitted to monitor? This is something we’ve had to confront several times in the last year. This supposedly “safe space”, with its clearly marked signs and miniaturized accommodation, has repeatedly been violated. First, a grown man was taking nude photos of himself in a bathroom mirror while kids were just outside the door. When he was walked in on (by my son), he played it off and left quietly. A couple months later, a grown man undressed in the boys locker room and walked around naked.

The latter happened twice more with negligible response, until we called the police ourselves.

These are just the times I know of. More than once, I’ve spoken to groups of kids that reacted casually to these examples, “Oh, that happens all the time.” They don’t report it [in spire of being uncomfortable or feeling unsafe] because they don’t think anything can, or will, be done. several said they didn’t want to be rude! After this, I’m starting to think they’re right. But, is it because the adults are too cowardly for confrontation? Or are they scared that it’s gonna boil down to identity politics? Is drawing attention to this going to be some kind of hyphenate-shaming? Does this man identify as a child? Was he checking for hernias?

For one, I encourage children to utilize the two tools they have on hand all the time. Their voices and their feet. Be loud, “HEY! You aren’t supposed to be in here!” Then get out and go for help. Being loud draws witnesses and lets others know that its okay to say something. The locker room guy was able to do this for a long time before anyone raised an alarm. Our best guess is that everyone was unsure about saying anything to a grown naked man. Then, get to the first and highest authority you can.

Not all “adults” are created equal. My experience is that most adults don’t actually know anything about exploitation, grooming, or child predators, nevermind handling a real life situation or reporting. Conventional wisdom is “tell a parent”. This doesn’t mean, “tell the first one you see.” The same goes for “tell an employee.” For the photo guy? The nearest employee replied with astonishing horror, then told a story about her daughter nearly being molested, then went back to her crossword.

So, I advise parents and kids to have a couple adults picked out in advance. A head lifeguard, the shift manager, or an instructor they’re familiar with. If there are lots of parents present, it might be worth getting to know which is a first responder, nurse, or in a profession that might include the skills to handle these tough situations. For my own kids, I tell them that when all else fails, find the biggest daddy or military type and say they’re scared. I’ve never seen a veteran balk at a controntation when a child’s safety is threatened.

Calling it like I see it…

Two years ago, I was incensed at the murder of a retired Army paratrooper, turn police officer. The suspect was a convicted felon that had just finished a nickel for another murder. After paying his debt to society, he immediately robbed a bank in my area, then went on a cross country crime spree that cost Daniel Webster his life and ended with the suspect being shot in San Diego.  The suspect survived.

My abolitionist spirit was in its infancy, but this sense of outrage at criminals being returned to our communities and exposing them to our youth really grabbed me.  We have a gang problem here. It’s not Chicago or LA., but they still manage to do a lot of killing and violence over turf and rap videos. It’d be nice if we stopped sending these thugs for what equates to criminal summer camp and boarding school.  They come back with better contacts and a little more hair on their chests, ready to teach the kids.  I kinda wish they’d do a convict swap program with places like Utah or Montana…. Panama.

Anyhow. I was upset, as I do. I wrote a lengthy facebook post (original) which received zero likes or comments from my very small friend list. I know facebook hides my posts from feeds because the words I use trigger their algorithm, but it didn’t take the sting out of being the only person I know that was so upset. I’ve had a couple years and found plenty of people to join me. I also expanded my outrage to include sex offenders and traffickers.

If you’ve been paying attention, sex offenders have been gaining ground in California, winning their right to have contact with children on Halloween. They’re also aimed at “reforming” the registries. They say laws limiting commerce and housing for men and women who are convicted of victimizing and brutalizing, are “unfair.” That’s really the tip of the iceberg. California is not the only place. I’ve seen a lot of chatter out East too.

Which brings me back to my original point, “Why are we putting dangerous criminals back into our communities?” I’ve already gotten hate mail and attacks for my unerring conviction that these people cannot be reformed or controlled, unless they are contained… permanently. Shockingly, their strongest defenders are single mothers and middle aged men.

In the age of Weinsteins and Clintons, you all should be asking why our legislators are making life easier for these monsters, while ignoring the very real pandemic of child exploitation? How on Earth do predators have a voice in our government?…. Oh wait…

I do encourage you to click the links for “California”, “tip,” and “Iceberg”. If  you’re not sure what you should be doing right now? 1)Turn off entertainment that is sexually exploitative. 2) Double check the registries where you live, work, and shop. Stay away from their houses. 3) Read the following posts from my work blog to catch up on the missing child and exploitation world. 4) Google the subject and keep learning. Be a mouthpiece for emancipation.

My first speaking tour  post, discussing human trafficking. Has links to other resources.

– Finding Kids Is Hard  The ins and outs of the civilian missing persons racket.
How to Join an Organization How to vet non-profits to avoid drama.
How to Help Without Joining  Things you can do to combat exploitation or ignorance, without joining a club.

If you really just want to have a teary eyed moment… This is basically the moment that catapulted me from pundit and lukewarm advocate to ABOLITIONIST.