The Growing Problem of Teenage Runaways in Texas

Teenage runaways are a perennial problem here in South Texas, and experts say it is just getting worse.

Runaways here in Texas make up about 10-percent of all the calls to the National Runaway Switchboard, and so far this year, the Corpus Christi Police Department has responded to more than 270 cases.

There are lots of misconceptions out there that tend to put concerned parents and family members at a disadvantage.

"Haven't heard anything from her," said Quincy Cooper, the father of a teen runaway. "She hasn't contacted any of her friends."

"I'm just so worried. I don't even know what to think," said Amy Cooper, the teen's mother.

"I called all of her friends and nobody knew where she was at," said Joann, another mother of a runaway teen.

Joann never expected her 14-year old daughter to runaway. There were no  clear signs. Her daughter was eventually discovered a few days later at her teenage boyfriend's home.

"I think my daughter was at the door and saw me, that I had passed by, and I think the mom didn't want to deal with the cops and stuff so they gave her to us," Joann said.

In Amy and Quincy Cooper's case, their 16-year old daughter, Keeana Alexis Cooper, has not been heard from for almost two weeks.

"If we could hear anything, you know, it would ease us up a little more," Amy Cooper said. "Just to let us know that she's fine. Anything. But I wake up in the middle of the night so scared and crying. It's a horrible feeling. I wouldn't want this on anybody."

Each day, Coastal Bend police departments get calls from concerned parents of runaways. The Corpus Christi Police Department has investigated 270 cases of runaway teens over the last six months, and had more than 1,000 reports of runaways in 2012.

"It's always a fear that you know is going to go missing. There's evil people out there and sometimes it happens," CCPD Lt. Patrick McMenamy said. "Luckily, we've been very fortunate."

Fortunate that the runaways have been just that, and not abductions, he said. But for parents, there's always the fear that their child, their missing teen, could be the sad statistic.

Police offer this advice.

"Know where your kids are," McMenamy said. "Know who your kids are friends with. Know your children's friends' parents. Be active in your child's life."


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