BRAZOS COUNTY, Texas — When Chuck Fleeger had his daughter in 1991, one of his first thoughts was: "What would happen if my child went missing?"
It was something the Army veteran and then-College Station police officer never thought about, but he explained it created a passion within him.
“I was very fortunate that my supervisors would always continue to allow me to work, even if that wasn't part of my job description,” Fleeger said. “They would continue to allow me to be involved in it.”
Whether your loved one was kidnapped or they left on their own accord, it may be easy to think it won’t happen to you until the hard lesson is staring you in the face.
According to FBI data, last year, there were just over 337,000 entries in the National Crime Information Center.
That same year, 2021, 94,428 calls were made to the National Center for Missing or Exploited Children.
“We are doing a better job of being aware of missing children, particularly but missing persons in general,” Fleeger began. “We're aware of the risks that are associated with it.”
Human trafficking, exposure to drug and alcohol, opportunities to commit crimes, to name a few.
November, a month designated as National Runaway Prevention month, a term Fleeger dislikes, proved to be a busy one for us here at home when it comes to missing people.
One Amber Alert started off the week and eight reports of missing people plagued the month.
“That has attracted a lot of attention,” he said. “I've been asked, you know, does that mean that there's more, I don't necessarily think that there's been an increase.”
He’s not wrong.
“We have not seen an increase in missing juveniles,” wrote Kole Taylor, the Bryan Police Department’s public information officer, in an email. “The Amber Alert Network of the Brazos Valley has been increasing awareness to the public about runaways in our area.”
When it comes to Amber Alerts, Fleeger explained that it’s not always about the loud alarm sent to our cell phones over FCC-regulation channels, but rather about complete community support and awareness so that any missing persons or children can be sent home to their families.
“I don't necessarily believe that these missing people, missing children events have always been going on in our community,” Fleeger explained. “I think we're doing, collectively, a better job of recognizing it, and talking about it and shining a light on it.”
The department of justice explains the guidelines to be qualified for an Amber Alert as these:
- There is reasonable belief by law enforcement that an abduction has occurred.
- The law enforcement agency believes that the child is in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death.
- There is enough descriptive information about the victim and the abduction for law enforcement to issue an AMBER Alert to assist in the recovery of the child.
- The abduction is of a child aged 17 years or younger.
- The child’s name and other critical data elements, including the Child Abduction flag, have been entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) system.