Chaplains to take over runaway calls in Fresno

FRESNO, Calif.

The goal is to provide families with resources to help get to the bottom of why the child or teen is running away. Every year thousands of parents and guardians in the city of Fresno call police to report a runaway. Usually a police officer takes the report, but soon, it will be a chaplain.

Chaplain Kratt is used to shaking hands and solving problems, and soon he will be helping a lot more anxious parents and upset teens who have run away from home.

"Sometimes it's just being a kid. Not wanting to adhere to rules in the home. But, unfortunately all too often, it's the home life, these kids are living in a bad situation," Rodney Lowery a Senior Police Chaplain said.

Every year an average of 3,400 runaway reports are taken in Fresno. That is about 10 calls each day. Most runaways are between the ages of 13 to 16.

Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer says chaplains will try to trouble shoot underlying issues before the runaways make decisions that harm their future and strip their innocence.

"We have a significant number of these female juveniles that ultimately end up on the street working as prostitutes. And what we have found is, a majority of them are contacted within the first 48 hours by gang members and pimps," Dyer said.

Currently most runaway calls are taken over the phone by police officers, and many of the reports involve habitual runaways. The change will offer more personal service also allow officers to handle calls that are in progress or more urgent.

Since chaplains are volunteers, they generally have more time to listen, offer resources and make follow-up visits.

"It just translates to a lot of savings for the city and it just makes sense for the family," Lowery said.

The police department hopes this individual care will give families long term solutions they need and ultimately will result in fewer calls for service for the same problem. The program will start in 30 days, and will begin in Southeast Fresno.

In cases where the circumstances are unique or the child is immediately at risk, a patrol officer will respond.

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