What to do if your child goes missing

SAVANNAH, Ga. – Two boys are home with their families after disappearing for hours on Sunday night.

Jacob Bowen, 6, and his nine-year-old friend were playing together outside Bowen’s Frazier apartment off Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Around 5:00 p.m. Bowen’s mother, Jamie Bowen, says, “I turned my back for a minute” and when she turned around the boys were gone.

Bowen has Asperger’s and A.D.H.D.. His mom told WSAV he has a history of wandering off but this time, his mom says, felt different.

“He usually tells us where he goes and this time he didn’t,” Jamie Bowen said.

Bowen called police to report her son’s disappearance which launched a more than 3 hour air and ground search. Around 8:30 p.m. the boys were found at a nearby Y.M.C.A. and safely delivered back to their families. Jacob Bowen told WSAV the boys wanted to sneak in to go swimming.

WSAV’s crime expert, Gerry Long, says a child missing is more common than one might think.

“It can happen to anybody,” she said. “You can be talking to somebody and look away for two seconds and your child can be gone. So don’t be ashamed about it. You’re not a bad parent if that happens. What’s important is that you contact the appropriate authorities immediately.”

WSAV spoke to the Savannah Metro Police Department and they explained that they never put the word out about the 9-year-old missing because he was never officially reported missing to police like Bowen. Police say they found out about the other boy while investigating Bowen’s disappearance.

Long says parents should carry an updated picture of their child at all times. Parents should also be able to recall their child’s height, weight and physical appearance, which can change if their child is going through a growth spurt. In an age of cell phone distractions, Long stresses the important of staying alert at all times.

Now reunited, Jacob Bowen says he never wants to run away again.

“Because I could get hurt,” he said. “And she [his mother] doesn’t know where I get hurt at.”

Bowen’s mother says she also learned an important lesson she now wants all parents to remember for the future.

“To not turn my back one time,” she said. “Because one time could turn into what happened yesterday.”

If your child goes missing, police stress the importance of calling 911 first instead of posting on social media so law enforcement can activate their resources quickly and reach a broader audience.

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