Nearly a thousand kids go missing every month in Oklahoma. Police simply don't have the resources to look for them. That leaves families not knowing what to do or where to turn - until now.
A non-profit group of private investigators searches for those kids for free. The Center for Search and Investigations is saving lives. The private eyes who donate their time looking for missing kids have located 70 of them in the past two years. Some are kids who ran off to stay with friends, but others were found hundreds of miles away with sex offenders, some were badly injured, some were forced into making child porn, and others were found with traffickers.
"Predators know exactly how to manipulate young minds," said Private Investigator Jamie Morton.
Jamie Morton is a former FBI agent turned private investigator and is one of about 40 private eyes in Oklahoma driving the streets at all hours, searching for missing kids on their own time.
They never know what they'll find, but they do know time is of the essence because they say one out of every three of these kids is approached by a trafficker within 48 hours.
"I got a call and dropped everything and went to a truck stop, and the guy was going to sell her and all he wanted was a carton of cigarettes and a hundred bucks," Morton said.
The Center for Search and Investigation says nearly half of the kids who go missing in Oklahoma are victims of a sex crime. They take any case involving kids 11 to 16, missing 90 days or less. A lot of the kids are runaways, some are repeat offenders, many are troubled and probably can't imagine the dangers they'll face on their own. The Center says 90 percent of missing persons cases are solved because of a flyer, so that's a big part of what the group does. They also use social media; they can track cell phones and other devices. They work with search dog teams and put out alerts through a national weather app. Some of the kids have heartbreaking horror stories when they're found.
"What essentially happened is she was sold from one person to the next for a period of a few weeks. She'd been gone almost a month when we got the case," said Darcie Scoon, Center for Search and Investigation.
Darcie is the executive director of Oklahoma's chapter and says these kids aren't being snatched off the streets. It's much more subversive than that because anyone can come into your home at any time without your knowledge, through the Internet.
"If you were to kidnap a child, then it's a huge response. If you can talk a child into leaving with you, there are basically no charges, no big response," she said. "It's not technically illegal to leave."
She says kids are lured out of their homes and into the lives of strangers with promises of love, acceptance, offers to buy them food, clothes, give them money and freedom, but what kids don't get, is all that comes with a price.
"The person says if you want to stay, you have to: fill in the blank. It's not free," said Darcie Scoon.
Most people think men are doing the luring, but Darcie says it's actually women in their 20s and 30s, who get them and then hand them over to men, who are often pimps. Darcie urges parents not to take away their kids' phones as punishment but says instead, track their Internet activity and if they go missing, that phone can be key to finding them.
"It was probably the most horrible period of time we've ever gone through," said Scarlett Enyard.
Scarlett Enyard and her husband were panicked when his 13-year-old daughter disappeared from her school. They filed a police report, but the officer told them she'd probably just run away.
"Honestly, I was surprised a kid could go missing, and nobody would do anything about it. That's what was really surprising to me, that law enforcement would just say, hands off," she said.
They contacted the Center for Search and Investigation and within 30 minutes, were handing out flyers and working with a private investigator. That led them to a tip, which led them to a location and then the girl. Turns out she had run away with friends to a lake, but with the group's help, they got her back within 24 hours, before something terrible happened.
"I was so happy she was OK, and her dad was so happy she was OK, but we were so mad at just the situation," Enyard said.
Again, the Center for Search and Investigation is a non-profit group and these private investigators volunteer their time.