SALT LAKE CITY — The lack of police resources means many families are relying more and more on volunteer groups to help them find their missing kids.
The Center for Search and Investigations (CFSI) is one of those groups. It has both volunteers and private investigators who look for runaways free of charge.
The organization became a lifesaver for Spencer Leavitt, who never suspected he'd need such help. But when his 13-year-old son, Jonathan, ran away from home, he found the nonprofit organization on Facebook, and they stepped up immediately.
Leavitt said this wasn't Jonathan's first time to run away, but he had never been gone for more than a couple days.
"Never this long," Leavitt said. "The longest he's been gone is, like, 34 hours the last time."
Leavitt had been through the usual channels, such as filing a report with the Taylorsville Police Department, but he needed more help. When he found and contacted CFSI, the organization sent private investigator Allen Robins to look into his case.
Robins says just because kids run away of their own accord, doesn't mean they don't face real dangers.
"We've heard of stories of tricks for treats," he said. "They get people addicted to drugs and make them turn tricks in order to get more drugs."
In his short time investigating missing child reports with CFSI, Robins has a pretty good success rate.
"One hundred percent, so far, of these kids have come back safely to their families," he said.
But statistics don't keep him going; it's the parents torn to pieces, Robbins said.
Jonathan Leavitt eventually came home on his own after hearing investigators were looking for him.
"When I asked him, ‘Are you OK? Did anybody hurt you?' He's just shaking his head, and he won't say anything," Leavitt said.
There is a long way to go for the Leavitt family, but for now Jonathan is home; and people like Robins keep moving onto the next case.
"There's real evil in the world, and these kids are in danger of it," Robins said. "So we want to get them back as quick as we can to their families."
If you'd like to reach out to CFSI Utah, check out their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/#!/CFSIUtahforMissingChildren. The organization has six private investigators who volunteer their time to find missing kids.