Tracing Runaway Individuals

Several factors influence the decision to run away. Connections with family and kin emerged as a primary motivator for many youth interviewed.


Document all known hang outs and activities. Make sure to record the names of the runaway’s friends and their parents. This information may help investigators contact the family to gain further information.


A runaway is someone, usually a child, who leaves home or another place of residence without the permission or knowledge of their parents or legal guardians. Almost 1.5 million children and teenagers run away each year, according to research. The reasons for running away vary from family conflicts to mental illness and abuse.

If you think your teen is considering running away, there are steps you can take to help prevent them from disappearing. Keep an eye out for a change in their behaviour, such as heightened isolation, social withdrawal, rebelliousness or aggression. Also pay attention to their grades, attendance and academic problems.

Observe their social media activity and contact friends, neighbours and classmates to see if they’ve heard from or seen your child recently. It’s possible they may have a new group of friends and are hiding out with them. In addition, ask your teen’s friends to check their homes and vehicles in case they’ve made it there.

If you believe your teen has gone missing, call the police immediately. Be sure to give them your name, address and phone number. Also write down an officer’s name, badge number and report number. Keep in mind that law enforcement has other priorities, so don’t put your home telephone number on “Missing” posters. Also consider asking other family members to activate tracking devices on their cell phones. This could give the police a lead.

Social Media

Using social media to track runaway individuals has become an essential tool. However, this type of research has its limitations. For one, the questions used to collect information via questionnaire are not necessarily the same questions that would be asked of participants in a face-to-face interview. This can lead to different responses and a lack of clarity in understanding the answers.

Previous studies have highlighted the importance of social media in the investigation of missing persons and runaways (Frank, Cheng, and Pun 2011, Bullock 2018b). In addition, the use of social media by teenagers can be helpful in locating them or persuading them to return home (Beshears, 2019).

When attempting to trace a runaway, it is important to have as much information as possible. This includes a picture with identifying marks, their last known location, and any other details that may help. In addition to this, it is critical to share the photo widely on all social media platforms. This can reach a huge number of people in a very short amount of time and can lead to the person’s return.

As with any type of investigation, it is critical to have the right skills and resources. The lack of specialized training and availability of tools can be a significant barrier in the use of social media for these investigations.


Many runaways have been trained to hide their activities by their friends and will take steps to destroy date books and clear their cellular telephone databank in order to avoid being traced. A professional missing persons investigation should include a search for email communications to and from the runaway and their associates.

In cases of at-risk or endangered missing children, a call from the runaway or ransom demander can trigger a phone trace by law enforcement agencies. Upon concluding the phone call with the runaway or the party requesting a ransom, immediately dial *57. You will be connected to an automated system that will provide you with the location ping information of the telephone number that is being used.

It is essential to document this call information in the service request tab and to end date the service authorization after the runaway returns home. This will prevent further service requests being placed on the account.

Phone Calls

When a runaway person is being sought out, it is important to call police right away. They are trained specifically to find missing persons, and will be able to survey the situation much more quickly than you can. If you can’t get to a police station, call a community service that offers support to runaway youth, like Childline or Coram Voice.

If you can, ask your kids’ friends, teachers and workmates if they have seen your child. A number of teenage runaways will “let slip” valuable information about where they are or their general plans.

It is also worthwhile to activate tracking devices on your children’s cell phones. Even if they turn their phone off, the tracking device may be able to give police a lead. It is also a good idea to cancel any bank accounts or credit cards that they could access. This will stop them spending money on food, transport and other things they don’t really need while they are on the run. Lastly, it is a good idea to make color copies of up-to-date photos of your children and circulate them.