Nothing pains us more than to receive a call from a frantic parent saying their child ran away. Such was the case with a young boy eleven years old in Northern California. The parents knew their son made friends and liked to hang around with a male adult who lived close to their home. How the boy met the man was unclear when we commenced the investigation but the parents were absolutely convinced the man was harboring their son. Some of you may not know that law enforcement has no legal right to inspect a home of a person who might allow a child to stay with them unless that person gives them permission to enter their residence. However, if there is reasonable cause to obtain a search warrant the officers will do that.
Remember, the parents knew that their child was not abducted and that if he was at the man’s home he went there on his own. In this particular case the police were given permission by the adult male to search his residence and they did not find the child. In fact they went twice to the same residence but on the second visit one of our investigators went inside the residence with the officers. Our investigator is a retired San Francisco Police Detective. Prior to the officers being called to the residence this second time, our investigator interviewed several neighbors who claimed that they had seen the child on a couple of occasions in the complex but they had not seen him enter the residence or leave the residence of the adult suspected of harboring the child. That information was sufficient for us to initiate surveillance on the townhouse complex and our investigator was about 75% certain he had seen the child come out the back door of the townhouse but he did not have a perfect view of the back door. We asked the boy’s parent to call the police again and when officers arrived they were again given permission to enter the townhouse.
Just as the officers were about to leave the townhouse our investigator noticed that there was an attic door in the ceiling above the second floor. He asked the officers to look in the attic and behold, the child was there. By law they could not arrest the man for harboring the child and he had no prior criminal record. The child was taken back to his parents who were thrilled to have their son back home. We suggested that the parents seek counseling to learn why the child ran away in the first place. Nice ending. For sure!