Increase in missing children causes concern

  • Matt Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder

A member of the County Council has requested a presentation from the Hawaii Police Department next week to discuss a seemingly growing problem of missing children.

The sole item on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting of the council’s Committee on Public Safety is a discussion with police representatives “regarding the trend of increased missing children in the County of Hawaii,” which was recommended by Puna Councilman Matt Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder.

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“It’s something that’s a big concern with a lot of people,” Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder said, explaining that recent posts on social media have expressed fears about potential kidnappers or sex traffickers in order to explain a string of child disappearances.

“I’m a father myself. I have three kids, so I have my own perspective on it,” he said.

As of Thursday, the state Department of Human Services listed 10 children still reported as missing on Hawaii Island since 1994, and the Hawaii Police Department has reported more than a dozen missing children in the last two months alone, although several have since been found.

On Wednesday, the day before the Public Safety agenda was posted, three Pahoa children, all siblings, were reported missing, although the police later reported on Thursday that they were found in good condition.

Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder discounted the idea of a serial child kidnapper behind the disappearances.

“Most of them are runaways, and a lot of them get found pretty quick,” Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder said, adding that one of the purposes of Tuesday’s presentation will be to determine how the police classify and investigate missing child cases.

However, the councilman said the trend is still worrying. Nearly all of the missing children were between the ages of 13 and 18, and are mostly non-Caucasian, he said.

“We’re hoping to get into why these kids run away,” Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder said. “What are the causes of it, what do they have in common?”

Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder added that he hopes the presentation might alleviate fears or rumors spread on social media.

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In the day between the Pahoa siblings being reported missing and found, several social media posts drew unfounded links between the disappearances and the Carbon Nation, a self-purported cult. It’s leader was arrested in Puna last week for the state’s mandatory quarantine for out-of-state travelers.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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