54 J. Crim. L. Criminology & Police Sci. 211 (1963)
Why Runaways Leave Home

handle is hein.journals/jclc54 and id is 219 raw text is: POLICE SCIENCE
James A. Hildebrand is a Detective assigned to the Missing Persons Unit of the New York Police
Department. Detective Hildebrand received a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from the
City College of New York, and is currently pursuing graduate work in Police Science at this school.-

Law enforcement agencies today are faced with
the constantly increasing problem of the runaway
youth. Indicative of the increasing demand for
police services in this area is the number of resi-
dents reported missing in New York City. In 1950,
6,328 cases were reported. By 1960 the total had
increased to 9,555, or one every fifty-five minutes.
This represents a 51 percent increase over a ten
year period, a period in which the population of
the city declined by 1.4 percent.
Of the cases reported in 1960, 5,067 involved
runaways. A runaway is intended here to mean a
subject under 18 years of age who leaves home
without parental consent, and who is reported to
the police as a missing person. This police interest
in runaways has evolved out of public concern for
their safety and welfare and not because they have
committed a crime. It is typical of present day
trends in law enforcement in which police depart-
ments are assuming responsibilities for services
that are allied in some manner to their original
responsibility of law enforcement. In these cases
the object of the police search is to locate the youth
and return him to his family.
Most information dealing with delinquency is
based on accessible case histories available from
juvenile courts and probation offices, after the
delinquent behavior pattern is formed. The run-
away, on the other hand, represents the youth who
has a problem, but in most instances has not
developed a definite anti-social attitude. His action
is a predelinquent indicator, and as such its value
should be recognized. If this danger signal is
ignored society has lost another battle in its at-
tempt to control crime. The importance of this
judgment can be more fully appreciated when con-
sideration is given to the estimate that more than
50 percent of all police work involves youth, and

that 70 percent of all delinquents have run away
at one time or other.'
As each case is reported to police, the reporting
person is asked various questions to aid in locating
and identifying the runaway. One of these ques-
tions is: Why did the subject run away? In over 75
percent of the cases the cause is listed as unknown.
Time after time, parents flatly state that there is
no valid reason. They infer that some sinister fate
has befallen the subject. But police experience has
shown that these so-called sinister happenings
seldom occur. Why then do children leave home?
To gain some insight into this problem a study
of two hundred sixty-two cases was conducted.
These cases originated in six precincts located in
the southwest section of Brooklyn, an area com-
prised in the main of families in the middle to low
income range, with the lower middle income group
most prevalent. Housing is approximately evenly
distributed between one and two family houses
and apartment buildings. The major ethnic groups
are: German, Irish, Italian, Jewish, and Scandi-
It is recognized that the information contained
here is not complete since it is impossible to know
how many children run away and are not reported.
Many previously unreported cases are disclosed
when cases reported for the first time reveal prior
instances, and when unreported cases are picked
up while wandering the streets.
The purpose of this study was to find out the
following: to determine the age distribution of
runaways; to identify any recidivist patterns; to
determine the length of time they remain away
from home; and to determine what impels a child
to leave home. Information pertaining to three
'JOHN P. KENNY, PoLc WoRK wrm JUVxN s,

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