When New Haven Police Detective Jessie Agosto made the switch to the Missing Persons Unit, she didn’t know how busy her days would be.
“Last year we had 688 cases that we handled,” said Agosto.
Out of those cases, only four are still unsolved. Those cases can range from children who are kidnapped to people who wander off and go missing. However, the highest number of cases seen in New Haven are young runaways.
“They are constantly running away, so we’re constantly trying to located them, and trying to figure out the reasons why they are running away and see if we can find some services to help them along,” Agosto said.
One of those services is a pilot program with New Haven Family Alliance. Runaways appear before a juvenile review board, then are introduced to counselors to help them and their families.
“There’s different reasons why kids run away. Sometimes it’s easier than staying and dealing with whatever issue,” said Kyisha Velazquez with the New Haven Family Alliance.
Velazquez says because the organization is not run by the police, or by the courts, it allows the runaways to open up.
“I think once a young person starts making a bad choice, that’s all people see, so it’s a fresh start. Let’s start fresh. Today’s a new day, let’s set some goals. You have to repair the relationship with your family, you have to stop running away, you have to go to school,” said Velazquez.
It makes them accountable for their own choices, and so far, Agosto says the program seems to be working.
“It’s actually helped out. We’ve already referred 10 people, and I’d say we’ve had six we call successes with them,” said Agosto.