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Copiah County Sheriff’s Office says watch your children carefully

The Copiah County Sheriff’s Office is asking for help in identifying and locating a man who has repeatedly approached a female minor, and cautions people to watch their children.

Wednesday morning, the following message was posted on the CCSO Facebook page: “It has been brought to our attention that a vehicle similar to [a light blue Chevrolet Suburban] with a California license plate has approached at least one tender age female on more than one occasion in the county. The driver is said to be a heavy built black male with dread locks and there is a black male in the back seat. Please watch our young children carefully as they are out playing the yard. Contact the Sheriff’s Office IMMEDIATELY at 601-892-2023 if you see this vehicle.”

The caution is a reminder to many that thousands of children go missing nationwide each day. Thankfully, according to a study by Reuters, 99% are found alive and safe, and are returned to their homes.

As of Sept. 30, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children had 5,132 individuals listed as missing in the United States. The most recent report was submitted Monday — a 17-year-old teenage girl in Texas.

Mississippi has 39. The most recent report was of a 15-year-old girl named Zykia Winford, of Jackson, missing since Sept. 17. The one geographically closest to Lincoln County was a teenager who went missing in Crystal Springs in August 2019 — Asucely Gomez Perez.

 

Why do children go missing?

A child can go missing for many reasons, whether he or she is taken by someone else or disappears under their own power. NCMEC classifies cases into one or more of five categories — endangered runaways, family abductions, nonfamily abductions, LIM (lost, injured or otherwise missing) and critically missing young adults.

Endangered runaways are classified as children under the age of 18 who go missing on their own accord and whose whereabouts are unknown to their legal guardian or parent. In 2019, 91% of missing children reports were endangered runaways; 77% were 15-17 years old.

Of runaways, 87% had at least one reported risk factor and 62% had two or more. Risk factors include a previous runaway attempt, drug/alcohol use, mental health issues, suicidal or self-harm tendencies, medical condition or pregnancy, gang involvement, online enticement or a special needs condition.

Family abductions accounted for 5% of all cases reported to NCMEC in 2017. Sixty percent of AMBER Alerts issued in 2016 were for family abduction cases. Risk factors include having a family member who has: previously abducted or threatened to take a child; a history of marital instability, lack of co-parental cooperation, domestic or child abuse; a criminal record; stronger ties to a different state or country; no job, can work anywhere or is financially independent; or is engaged in such activities as quitting a job, selling a home, closing accounts, disposing of documents, purchasing travel tickets for the child, altering his/her appearance or applying for renewed or duplicate legal documents for the child.

Nonfamily abductions occur when a child is taken by someone known, but not related to the child, such as a neighbor or online acquaintance, or someone unknown to the child. These are the rarest type of case, making up only 1% of reported cases. In 2019, more than 1,300 attempted abductions were reported to NCMEC.

The most common lures used in attempts were offering the child a ride; offering money, candy or other treats; using an animal to interest the child; or asking the child questions.

Attempted abductions more often occur when a child is school age, going to or from school or school activities, or on the street with other children or alone. School-age children are at greatest risk on school days just before after school hours and in the evenings 6-7 p.m.

One percent of the cases reported to NCMEC are in this category. In 2012-2016, 6% of the more than 900 AMBER Alerts issued were for LIM children.

A lost, injured or otherwise missing child is defined as a child who has disappeared under unknown circumstances or a child who is too young to appropriately be considered an endangered runaway. This ranges from a child wandering off and becoming lost to a child who may have been abducted, but no one saw it happen. These circumstances sometimes involve “foul play” or those reporting the incident may attempt to cover up a crime involving the child.

Critically missing young adults are age 18-20. Though not legally children, these are at an elevated risk of danger if not located as soon as possible, due to the circumstances surrounding their disappearance. Two percent of the reports made to NCMEC are critically missing young adults.

 

Prevention

Children who evaded abduction have done so in a variety of ways, including ignoring or refusing the potential abductor, using a cellphone to threaten or call for help, fighting back, screaming or making noise, intervention from another adult or child, or the abductor left the area or voluntarily released the child.

NCMEC is taking several steps to help fight the problem. The Center co-created a program that teaches “The 4 Rules of Personal Safety” — check first, take a friend, tell people “No,” and tell a trusted adult. The Code Adam Program was created to teach employees of various businesses how to handle reports of missing children on the premises. Team Adam is a unit composed of former and retired law enforcement professionals who provide assistance to investigators and families. The ADAM Program quickly distributes missing child posters to police, news media, schools, businesses, medical centers and other recipients within a specific geographic search area.

 

Reporting missing children

A missing child should be reported immediately.

A custody order is not required to report a child missing to local law enforcement. Similarly, a custody determination is not required to have a missing child’s information entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) Missing Person File.

Federal law prohibits law enforcement from establishing a waiting period before accepting a missing child report, and requires law enforcement agencies to respond to in a specific way, regardless of the reason why a child is missing.

If your child is missing from home, search closets, piles of laundry, in and under beds, inside large appliances, in vehicles (including trunks) and anywhere else a child may crawl or hide. If the child cannot be found in a store, notify the manager or security then call 911. Many stores have a Code Adam plan of action in place.

When you call 911, provide the dispatcher with the child’s name, date of birth, height, weight and any unique descriptors, such as glasses or braces. Tell them when you noticed your child was missing and what he or she was wearing. Request the information be entered into the FBI’s National Crime Information Center Missing Person File.

You can also call NCMEC at 800-THE-LOST. Quick reference guides can be downloaded at missingkids.org.

Most children reported missing to NCMEC are recovered safely after a relatively brief period of time. The longest average times missing are in family abductions — an average of 326 days — and runaways are usually located in an average time of 61 days.

 

Perez, and others

Asucely Gomez Perez was 16 years old when she was last seen in Crystal Springs, Aug. 7, 2019. She was 5-foot-3, 130 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes.

Anyone who has any information on Perez is asked to call the Copiah County Sheriff’s Office at 601-894-3011 or 601-892-2023.

These are the Mississippi children currently listed as missing on NCMEC’s database — name, age now, city or town last seen, and the date he or she went missing. For updated listings, visit MissingKids.org/GetHelpNow/search/poster-results. Anyone with any information or these or another missing child should call 800-THE-LOST.

  • Zykia Winford, 15, Jackson, missing since Sept. 17.
  • Michael Morrow, 14, Starkville, Sept. 2.
  • Geovany Sacvin Itzep, 18, Jackson, Sept. 2.
  • Cedric Smith, 16, Clinton, Aug. 27.
  • Nahviah Griffin, 18, Jackson, Aug. 1.
  • Xzavier Banyard, 17, Grenada, July 9.
  • Brooke Diedrick, 17, Moss Point, June 22.
  • Edilberto Vides, 19, Jackson, June 12.
  • Danielle Roulston, 14, Meridian, June 6.
  • Jaden Bolen, 16, Meridian, May 29.
  • Najya Barnes, 16, Ridgeland, May 15.
  • Demarion Reeves, 17, Moss Point, May 13.
  • Yukhia Williams, 17, Jackson, April 30.
  • Zandria Adams, 19, Hattiesburg, March 3.
  • Shayleigh Collins, 17, Moss Point, Feb. 4.
  • Josie Blackwell, 17, Saucier, Nov. 6, 2019.
  • Asucely Gomez Perez, 17, Crystal Springs, Aug. 7, 2019.
  • Deashia Dora, 21, Columbus, Jan. 17, 2017.
  • Mercin Lucas Martinez, 18, Canton, Oct. 22, 2016.
  • Kimberly Gomez-Coronado, 12, Canton, Sept. 7, 2014.
  • Evelin Coria-Coronado, 8, Canton, Sept. 7, 2014.
  • Mendy Coria-Coronado, 7, Canton, Sept. 7, 2014.
  • Jackelyn Gomez-Coronado, 11, Canton, Sept. 7, 2014.
  • Myra Lewis, 8, Camden, March 1, 2014.
  • Cameron Anderson, 32, Fulton, April 11, 2000.
  • Kyle Anderson, 29, Fulton, April 11, 2000.
  • Rachel Anderson, 34, Fulton, April 11, 2000.
  • Angela Freeman, 44, Petal, Sept. 10, 1993.
  • Leigh Occhi, 41, Tupelo, Aug. 27, 1992.
  • Lamoine Allen, 31, Woodville, May 10, 1992.
  • Kreneice Jones, 31, Woodville, May 10, 1992.
  • Nerissa Franklin, 46, Gautier, Dec. 30, 1989.
  • Daffany Tullos, 39, Jackson, July 26, 1988.
  • Madeline Ponds, 51, Columbus, Nov. 20, 1986.
  • Jerry Armstrong, 60, Hernando, Dec. 23, 1977.

 

Four unidentified people are also still reported as missing, known only as John Doe and Jane Doe — two in January 2014 and two in December 1982.

  • Jane Doe, 15-30, Sardis, Jan. 14, 2014.
  • John Doe, 5-7, Sharkey County, Jan. 8, 2014.
  • John Doe, 38-42, Moss Point, Dec. 9, 1982.
  • Jane Doe, 39-40, Moss Point, Dec. 5, 1982.

What should you do if you see a child who appears to be lost?

  • NCMEC encourages you to get involved.
  • Comfort the child but avoid physically touching him or her.
  • Ask the child if he/she is lost, or knows the location of his/her parent or guardian.
  • Refrain from asking for too much personal information — children are taught not to give this information to people they do not know.
  • Contact law enforcement to report the incident.
  • Ask other adults in the area for assistance in reporting to an authority figure nearby while awaiting the arrival of law enforcement.
  • Remain the immediate location and do not take the child elsewhere. Do not place the child in your vehicle and drive somewhere else to seek help.
  • Wait with the child until help arrives.
  • If you see a child you recognize as missing — based on information from missing child alerts, media reports, or fliers from law enforcement — immediately call law enforcement and follow their instructions.