Missing in Knoxville: How KPD is working to find teens

Knoxville’s location makes it difficult for investigators to find the kids.
Knoxville’s location makes it difficult for investigators to find the kids.
Published: Jan. 20, 2023 at 9:09 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 20, 2023 at 11:07 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - In the United States every year 600,000 people are declared missing, according to The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, NamUS, a database that has a list of every single missing person in the entire United States.

More than 4,000 unidentified bodies are discovered each year in the U.S. Out of those, less than one percent of missing persons are ever found or able to be identified. The rest of the cases are either found or not.

There are a number of reasons a person can go missing whether they had been kidnapped, trafficked or ran away. Knoxville Police Department officials said no matter the circumstance they investigate each case as a top priority.

Tara Davis, the Community Relationship Coordinator for The Community Coalition Against Human Trafficking said no matter if the missing person is involved in human trafficking or not, they are there to welcome the victim with open arms.

“With the case of a missing person, if someone comes into our care we will work with them with law enforcement to identify who they are, where they’re supposed to be and then provide them with resources to return if that’s where they want to go,” said Davis.

Knoxville’s location makes it difficult for investigators.

“We sit at the intersection of two major interstates and because of that the ability to move people from state to state is greater because of the interstate,” said Davis.

Scott Erland, Knoxville Police Department’s Communications Manager, said that teens are sometimes classified as runaways because they know where they are. They may be with friends or unsupervised by a guardian, but that makes them still missing.

Erland said no matter if they ran away or not investigators will assess the gravity of the situation and rely heavily on the public for any information that could help locate them.

Davis has some helpful tips on how teens can watch their backs no matter what situation they are in.

“You just have to have your guard up to know whether or not you should disclose information and be vulnerable because vulnerabilities are what’s exploited. Teenagers on the internet maybe are firing off about their parents and about how they don’t understand me they get in a fight with them or whatever someone picks up on that and wants to be a listening ear,” said Davis.

Anybody with information on missing teens is urged to call East Tennessee Valley Crime Stoppers at 865-215-7165.