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Arizona's new law creates immediate statewide response for missing children

Arizona's new law creates immediate statewide response for missing children
Posted at 6:12 AM, Nov 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-10 08:12:15-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — A new state law is about to change the way law enforcement approaches missing children cases. When your child goes missing, every second seems to count. That’s the reasoning for a new law sponsored by Arizona state representative Jennifer Jermaine.

“Children are our most vulnerable members of society, and when they go missing, hours count," Jermaine said. "And we had law enforcement agencies that were waiting 72 hours to enter these children into national databases.”

In 2019, Jermaine created a task force to interview all levels of Arizona law enforcement, asking about policies towards missing persons.

"What we found was that everybody was doing something different, and depending on where you went missing the response was going to be completely different," Jermaine said. "So we wanted a single unifying statute to tie everyone together.”

The task force came up with 89 policy recommendations. One of them was implemented this year on September 29, a statewide Missing Children Statute. The statute requires all law enforcement to submit information to state, federal, and tribal databases within two hours of receiving a report. It also removes the waiting period for reporting a missing child and allows schools to submit a report.

“I'm just so fortunate that we’re able to assist some families to learn about these experiences and these challenges, to be able to share what they’re going through,” said Valaura Imus-Nahsonhoya, a consultant for families with missing children.

Valaura Imus-Nahsonhoya works closely with indigenous families in missing persons cases. She also built support for the statute among tribal and state leaders.

"We’ve already strengthened those tribal to state government to government relationships through this bill," Imus-Nahsonhoya said. "We see them more present when we’re lobbying for this issue and our families are seeing it.”

The statute creates one statewide approach to missing children’s cases. It’s all the same, even if the child is indigenous, a runaway, or a teenager.

“Our families will be able to see that, we are working together we are trying to help our families,” Imus-Nahsonhoya said.

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