Tracing Runaway Individuals

Runaway children often seek out other runaway kids and their associates. They may also be involved with religious cults.


Police can play a vital role in the search for these individuals because of their 24-hour street presence. Obtaining cellular telephone call records can be difficult. A runaway child’s cellular phone may be unregistered.

Cellular Telephone Records

Cellular phone records can be a valuable tool in tracing runaway individuals. If a runaway is using a cellular telephone in your name, you can get call and text record information without a court order by calling the carrier and asking for a trace. These records can also provide you with a map of the locations that were called. This is important because it may help you determine the location of a known associate or potential predator.

Cell phones also have the ability to track a user’s location through “Stingray” devices and “tower dumps.” These methods, recently the subject of articles in USA Today and the Washington Post, are now being used by federal and local law enforcement in many jurisdictions. The ability to track a user’s location with these methods allows investigators to corroborate or disprove an alibi or evidence in a criminal trial.

These types of specialized location evidence must be reviewed and verified by qualified experts. Choosing the right expert can ensure that this evidence will withstand scrutiny in the courtroom.

Computer History

The modern computer is a miracle of technology. The inventors had to address numerous difficulties in designing, implementing and building such a powerful machine. In fact, the term “computer” was originally used to describe a complex loom that employed punched wooden cards to create different cloth patterns.

Contact your runaway’s school to obtain attendance history, especially for the dates when they have been absent. Ask the school resource officer for names of other friends your child hangs out with. Find out if your runaway has any work associates that you are unaware of and their work history. Check for e-mail to friends and search for messages about running away. Also, ask friends if they have noticed any changes in your runaway’s behavior. These may indicate they are in danger or experiencing problems at home.

School Attendance

School attendance is the percentage of days students are in school and participating in educational activities arranged by the schools. Each day that a student is absent, they are missing out on important learning opportunities that can help them achieve success in their academic career. Additionally, excessive absences cause students to fall behind their peers and can have a negative impact on the whole class.

According to research from the Everyone Graduates Center at John Hopkins University, children with poor attendance may have lower odds of graduating and are more likely to struggle with reading and other core academic skills in early grades. In addition, a high rate of absences can put a strain on teachers, whose job is to make up for lost classroom time when students are gone.

In response to increasing accountability measures under the Every Student Succeeds Act, states are addressing attendance-related legislation. FutureEd has analyzed state laws on the topic and found that states are clarifying rules around taking and reporting student absences, requiring intervention strategies, and softening punitive approaches to truancy.

Work History

The work history program constructs and consolidates a significant amount of employment-related information, saving researchers considerable time and effort in distilling this data from the main NLSY79 data files. For example, the program can track an individual’s employer associations using the PREV_EMP# variable and the TENURE variable, which depicts total weeks of tenure with each employer over contiguous survey years. However, some dates reported by the respondent have invalid missing codes for the week numbers, preventing the work history program from tracing these relationships. Refer to the documentation in Appendix 18 for more information about these data issues.

The NLSY79 work history file was incorporated into the main NLSY79 data set in 2000.


Parents should learn the names of all friends of their children, associates and classmates. If you think your child is running away, a little nosing around may help find them. Check long distance telephone records to see who they are calling. Obtain work history and unexcused absences from their school and workplace, too. Many runaways take date books and photos with them when they disappear. They also remove telephone numbers from cellular phone databanks to prevent investigators from getting their location.

If you have suspicions that your friend is a runaway, contact police. Provide a detailed description of the person, including height, weight and hair and eye color, as well as any distinguishing marks or clothing. Often, it is more effective to circulate a photograph with as much information as possible than to wait until the person turns up missing. This is especially true of teenagers who are in danger.