CPD changing the way it handles missing persons cases

December 7, 2009 2:50:16 PM PST
The Chicago Police Department is making changes in how they handle missing persons cases following the death of 12-year-old Jahmeshia Conner. Conner was reported missing by her family two weeks before her body was found in an alley on the city's South Side.

The most obvious change is that the police are sending out alerts immediately to the media. ABC7 got a number of them over the weekend. The police are sending them out without comment.

The superintendent has admitted that the department failed to send out an alert on the Conner case quickly enough. The department has also faced some criticism in their handling of that case. Some family members believe that the department did not take it seriously enough, so the superintendent says that he is vowing to take a closer look at cases like this and make sure that the department is doing all it can.

The last month has been a nightmare for Kim Harris. Her 14-year-old daughter Christine has been missing. No one has seen or heard from her, and Harris has had a difficult time getting the word out.

"The first 24 hours are the most critical. And it's been a month. And I'm just hoping and praying that Christine is alive, you know, and that she comes home soon," said Harris.

When Harris heard about the murder of 12-year-old Conner, she says her heart sank. The Englewood girl was missing for two weeks before her body was found in an alley near her home. She had been strangled.

"It's very frustrating because these kids are still out here. They need to be at home. I don't want the parent to go through the tragedy that these parents went through," said Andrew Holmes.

Holmes has been working with the families of more than 20 missing juveniles in Chicago. Police say past statistics suggest many of them ran away from home and most will return on their own. But, regardless, they are now re-evaluating how they handle these cases.

"Each one will be looked at individually. You can't just have a blanket policy. I do think it's safe when you're dealing with young children, especially if it's not a kidnapping and where you no there is no ransom or phone calls, so you might be facing the most difficult thing, which is a child abduction, time is of the essence," Jody Weis, Chicago Police superintendent.

Rev. Ira Acree, Jasmin Acree's cousin. says he welcomes changes in police policy. His cousin, 17-year-old Yasmin Acree, has been missing nearly two years, and he has criticized police efforts in that case as well as other missing juveniles.

"I don't know how the Chicago police department top brass could be comfortable with the current policies that don't protect children like my cousin, because she could possibly be alive today if there were policies in place," said Rev. Acree.

In the meantime, the superintendent says he has a little bit of an update on the Conner murder investigation. He says that they do have some good leads. However, at this point, no one is in custody.


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