Beyond Hawaii’s famous beaches and aloha spirit lies a troubling concern: missing children.
Thousands of children in Hawaii are reported missing every year.
The Missing Child Center is now teaming up with CrimeStoppers Honolulu to raise awareness, because many of these runaways become part of a bigger problem.
Dozens are listed on the Missing Child Center of Hawaii’s website.
“If you see a missing a child, please call 911 and report it. You could be saving a child’s life and bringing so much relief to their families,” said coordinator Amanda Leonard.
She says the Center found 7 missing kids in September, but the fight to find more continues.
Statistics from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reveal of the 25,000 runaway reports in 2017, 1 in every 7 runaways were victims of child sex trafficking.
“It’s a very alarming statistic, and unfortunately, we have to come to grips that this is happening, here in Hawaii. That’s why it’s so important to get these kids off the street as soon as possible, for their own protection,” explained Leonard.
Locally, Leonard says child sex trafficking victims are mostly girls, ages 14 to 17. They’re often spotted in Waikiki, Chinatown, or Kalihi.
She says many come from the foster care system.
But Jessica Munoz with the non-profit “Ho’ola Na Pua,” says child sex trafficking victims have no socioeconomic barriers.
“They can go to private school, they can go to public, you know, they can go from high class individuals,” said Munoz.
The non-profit provides resources for these victims and their families.
Munoz stresses families across Hawaii must recognize the dangers of what is out there: predators have expanded their reach.
“Because of the internet, the recruitment is so easy. It’s so easy, right. Kids have access to the world wide web which means perpetrators have access to them. We always tell parents it’s not really watch out for the guy in the white van who is going to kidnap your child. It’s: ‘What are they doing on their phone, who are they talking to on these social media apps?'”