KUALA LUMPUR - Missing persons, mostly those under 18, are mainly runaways driven by family problems and a craving for freedom.
Bukit Aman D11 (sexual crimes, domestic violence and child abuse investigations division) principal assistant director Asst Comm Hamidah Yunus said most of them were between 13 and 17 years old.
"Some crave for freedom while others were rebelling against their parents.
"It is also common for them to run away with their boyfriends or girlfriends," she said, commenting on a recent statement by Malaysian Crime Prevention Foundation vice-chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye on the issue.
Lee, quoting Bukit Aman statistics, said on Thursday 5,721 people were reported missing last year but only 3,127 (or 54.7 per cent) of them were later found.
He had stated that from Jan 1 to Dec 23 this year a total of 4,998 people had been reported missing but only 2,382 (or 48 per cent) were found.
ACP Hamidah said most runaways would be found or returned home after their "rebellious" phase ended.
"The problem is that some parents failed to inform the police when their children return home," she said adding that some families shifted homes and this made it hard for the police to track them down.
Meanwhile, Community Policing (COPS) founder Kuan Chee Heng said the majority of those reported missing were teens who "do not want to be found".
"They are usually from problematic, low-income families who are not receiving proper care and attention from their parents.
"So these children go looking for love elsewhere, like on the Internet. The euphoria of love excites them so much that they are willing to leave their households for it," he said.
Though running away posed no immediate danger to the child, Kuan said it was a crime under the Penal Code and the Child Act for anyone to keep a person, especially a minor, from their parents.
However, the anti-crime activist conceded that some runaways had valid reasons to take off.
"This is especially those who have been abused or sexually assaulted. But I urge these people not to run away, but instead, contact the police or Welfare Department. Such children should never be left with abusive families," he said.