One year after Jayme Closs, 47 Wisconsin kids are still missing

Majority of kids missing in south-central Wisconsin are runaways

MADISON, Wis. — It’s been one year since 13-year-old Jayme Closs escaped from Jake Patterson’s home, where she’d been held captive for nearly three months. But even though Jayme has been found, there are still dozens of missing children in Wisconsin and thousands nationwide.

Roughly 800,000 children are reported missing each year in the U.S. That’s roughly 2,000 each day. Of those, 115 are “stranger abduction” cases like Jayme’s, which means the child was taken by an unknown person.

Right now, there are 47 children from Wisconsin who have been reported missing.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) maintains a database for these missing kids. Some have been gone for several weeks, while others have been missing for years.

Half are from the Milwaukee area. The majority of kids missing in south-central Wisconsin are runaways.

The NCMEC works to bring awareness to every missing child, even though some cases get more attention.

“Sometimes there are special needs children that wander off, and those take a priority because of their cognitive disabilities or their physical disabilities,” said Julie Johnson from the Madison Police Department’s Special Victims Unit. “There might be kids that have medical needs. It may be as simple as they went to a friend’s house or to the library, and they might be too young to have a phone. Those take priority.”

Locally, Madison Police help find kids last seen in south-central Wisconsin.

“There are a lot of reasons kids run away. But we still take every case seriously, and we want parents to report them,” said Johnson.

There is a simple way you can help.

Both Johnson and the NCMEC agree the number one way to help find a missing child is to circulate their picture. They say the more people who see a child’s image, the higher the chances that child will be found.

You can find pictures of the 47 children currently missing in Wisconsin on the center’s web database here.

It’s also important parents act quickly.

“The quicker a parent or guardian reports a child missing, the better chance we have of finding them locally,” said Johnson. “That’s especially true for teens. They can get places pretty quickly and even make arrangements online.”

Within two hours of a tip coming in, Madison Police enters the missing child’s information in a national database, which goes out to all law enforcement. That means police anywhere can take the children into protective custody, notify Madison police, and then officers will work to reunite them with their families.

Madison Police and local businesses play a pivotal role in helping track down missing kids.

“We have a good working relationship with the hotels and motels here in Madison,” said Johnson. “When we have information that a child may be local, we investigate every tip we get on those kids and use our local connections.”

If you recognize a child you’ve seen from a “MISSING” poster, or have a tip on where they might be, call 1-800-THE-LOST.

The helpline is open 24-7. Americans submit 18 million tips to the NCMEC tipline each year.

Click here to submit a tip to the CyberTipline.