Interesting article from the BBC about why and how people disappear

Thought I’d share this BBC article, which was prompted by the police locating a man who disappeared in 2015. They found him alive and well, living in the woods near a town called Wisbech in the Fens. The man, an immigrant to the UK who was originally from Lithuania, had apparently gone missing on purpose because he was being “exploited” which in this context I think means enslaved.

For the article the BBC interviewed, among other people, a University of Glasgow professor who is “an expert in the geography of missing people.” From the article:

Most missing people, she said, disappeared for a day or two. Cases of long-term missing people were far less common.

Smartphones, social media, CCTV and bank cards can now document our every move, making it more difficult to escape.

But in her study of 40 missing people, many were “very aware” of the locations of CCTV cameras and avoided travelling by bus or train where their image might be caught on camera.

“It surprised us how, in the midst of a crisis and when big emotions are happening, these people managed to navigate such things,” said Prof Parr.

“People are incredibly resourceful.”

Prof Parr said many of those who had disappeared kept moving while missing.

Far more rare, she said, were cases of people “making home”, whether in a deserted building or in woodland, for example.

Article out of Australia about the reasons people walk away

Thought I’d give a shout-out to this article, where they talk about some of the reasons people choose to walk out of their lives. The information was obtained through interviews with Australian people who had done this and then returned. The article notes that

Nearly all missing persons (97%) return within two weeks, which causes these cases to be seen, by both the public and , as simple search operations. Viewing missing persons in this way ignores the underlying issues that trigger disappearances, making prevention strategies more difficult to put in place.

Most of the people who were interviewed said they left during “periods of distress or poor mental health, as well as in response to trauma in their families.” Half of them returned of their own accord and half were found by the police. Support services ought to be provided when they get back, but rarely are.

This is going to throw a wrench in things

Happened to catch this breaking news about a new Supreme Court ruling. Headline: “Supreme Court rules swath of Oklahoma remains tribal reservation.” As the article explains:

The court’s 5-4 decision, written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, means that Oklahoma prosecutors lack the authority to pursue criminal cases against American Indian defendants in parts of Oklahoma that include most of Tulsa, the second-largest city.

The court’s ruling casts doubt on hundreds of convictions won by local prosecutors. The case, argued by telephone in May because of the coronavirus pandemic, revolved around an appeal by an American Indian who claimed state courts had no authority to try him for a crime committed on reservation land that belongs to the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.

If I am reading this right, this ruling may mean that Oklahoma state prosecutors cannot prosecute crimes that occur within that area, and such cases will have to be handled by either tribal authorities or federal authorities. Me being me, I wondered what effect this is going to have on the missing persons cases in that area. Tulsa alone has quite a few missing persons listed on Charley.

We’ll have to see what happens, I guess. Another uncertainty in what has become a year full of uncertainties.

Apparently someone had the same thought I did

I hope all of you are safe and are taking appropriate social distancing measures. Michael’s classes are now canceled till May at least. Our friend Leslie, an aide at the residential center, still has to work and says there’s a lot of board games and coloring going on, now that the kids aren’t in class. Anything to keep them busy.

Everyone I know is well.

Not much else to say here, except that Rachel Snyder, author of an awesome book I’ve read called No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us, has done an editorial about how social distancing is going to be quite perilous for people currently in a violent relationship. From the editorial:

National and community crises historically have led to increased reports of domestic abuse. During the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the National Domestic Violence Hotline saw a 13% increase in calls from the Gulf area from April to June 2010. New Orleans and Lafayette, two of the largest communities affected by the spill, saw increases to their hotlines of 81% and 116%, respectively, during that same period. Hurricane Katrina too saw domestic assaults against women nearly double, and both men and women reported increases of psychological abuse.

This all sounds grim, but many of these situations involve couples who were not in healthy relationships to begin with. On a call from her Baltimore home, Jacquelyn Campbell, a professor from the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing and the country’s foremost researcher in domestic violence, was careful to point out that someone who is not psychologically or physically abusive before a crisis like coronavirus is not going to suddenly become violent. “This is not like anything I’ve lived through,” she said, “and my hypothesis is that any kind of horrific anything externally can exacerbate domestic violence.”

Campbell created a danger assessment decades ago that many programs now use to try to predict a domestic homicide before it happens. The stressors identified that make a situation lethal are the same whether we are in a pandemic or not: guns in the home, forced sex, unemployment and, most notably, prior incidents of domestic violence.

But the research on how domestic violence might be affected by our current situation simply does not exist. When an entire society shuts down, when children are home all day from school, when sports and gyms and social activities are all canceled, when friends can’t leave their own families to help, when places of worship are shuttered, when everything that ever tempered a violent situation is suddenly, terrifyingly, no longer available. What happens then?

She doesn’t know.

NY Times article about child porn

Wanted to recommend this article the New York Times has just put out: The Internet Is Overrun With Images of Child Sexual Abuse. What Went Wrong? It begins: Last year, tech companies reported over 45 million online photos and videos of children being sexually abused — more than double what they found the previous year.

Some takeaways, for those who can’t read the article cause of the paywall or whatever:

  1. In 1998, there were about 3,000 reports of child porn online. By 2008, there were 100,000 reports annually. By 2014, there were one million. In 2018, there were 18.4 million.
  2. The Justice Department is tasked with keeping ahead of the child porn issue but hasn’t been doing its job properly.
  3. Part of the problem is funding. Consistently, Congress has only been providing the Justice Department about half the funds they promised, and this year 20% of what WAS provided got taken away again and re-allocated to (surprise!) immigration enforcement.
  4. The NCMEC is also supposed to work on this problem but it has serious shortcomings, including its reliance “in large measure on 20-year-old technology.”
  5. Tech companies are aware that people are using their platforms (such as Snapchat, etc) to distribute child porn, but the tech companies only act when such images are reported to them. They don’t look for the images themselves. The NYT compares it to someone who knows they have a pest problem, and it scares them, so they just don’t turn on the lights and pretend the roaches aren’t there.
  6. A lot of the information on tech platforms that could lead to the identity of the children and the perpetrators in child porn images gets deleted before law enforcement is able to access it.
  7. We’re f****ed.

The Facebook gods smile upon me again

So a week or so ago the Charley Project’s Facebook page inexplicably tanked and all the sudden no one was seeing the posts, no one was liking or sharing or commenting on any of my posts. Now, equally inexplicably, the page’s reach has returned to normal. Shrug. I am glad of it, anyway.

I have no idea how online algorithms and analytics and whatnot work. Sometimes I wish I did. I was reading about the guy behind the hugely popular Twitter account that rates dogs, and he makes a six-figure annual income just from that account, like from selling ad space and merch. Which isn’t to say he isn’t doing anything. He pays very close attention to the analytics and, out of hundreds of dog pictures submitted for consideration every day, he selects the one he thinks will get the most likes and shares, and then after posting a tweet he keeps an eye on it for like fifteen minutes and if it’s not getting an acceptable number of likes and shares, he deletes it and tries again with another dog, another tweet.

So anyway. The most popular story on Charley’s Facebook at present is this one about Shawn Hornbeck’s family. Sadly, Shawn’s stepfather has passed away from cancer at only 57. He had help raise Shawn from infancy and Shawn and his siblings thought of him as their father. Another really popular story is this one, about a Chinese man who was found alive and well, eighteen years after his abduction at the age of three.

The story I would recommend, which hasn’t gotten much attention since I posted it during the time Facebook was ignoring me: this one. The headline basically says it all: “A Girl, 15, Reported a Sexual Assault, Then the Detective Abused Her, Too.”

I’m sure he had other victims as well.

I think I’m getting back in the saddle

The past week has been a bit unproductive as I was afflicted with what was either a severe cold or severe allergies, not sure which. I was pretty miserable with coughing and general yuckiness and couldn’t get much done.

In the meantime, people have disappeared, people have been found (including Delilah Dawn Hopkins, finally identified after being missing almost twenty years), the wheel turns.

The good news is that, per FBI data, the rate of missing persons and missing kids in particular is at its lowest since 1990. It’s the start of a lovely summer, people. Let your kids play outside, provided the pollen count’s down.

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month: Howard Takanaka

In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, I am profiling one Asian or Pacific Islander MP for every day of the month of May. Today’s case is Howard Shizue Takanaka Jr., a 26-year-old Army veteran who disappeared from Superior, Wisconsin sometime in January 1984.

The circumstances of his disappearance are vague; even the exact date his unknown. However, there’s no reason to think he’s not still alive today …somewhere.

Three dollars

Hey guys, the Charley Project is asking you for something: three dollars.

For three dollars a month, less than the price of a McDonald’s milkshake, you can help maintain one of the largest, most detailed missing persons databases online, a major tool for getting the information out there about cold cases.

If everyone who viewed the Charley Project on a daily basis donated just three dollars each month, that would be enough that the administrator could keep it as a full-time job and not have to cut back on missing persons work.

In exchange, this important tool can still be used by hundreds of thousands of people around the world, including law enforcement, journalists, podcasters, missing persons’ families, bloggers, amateur sleuths, and more.

If you can only afford to give two dollars or one dollar, that’s fine. If you can give more, terrific—any amount is appreciated.

You can use PayPal to donate to administrator@charleyproject.org. If you go to any Charley Project casefile, the PayPal button is at the top. Type in the amount, check the box that says “make this a monthly donation” and follow the steps.

It’s very easy and very, very much appreciated.