(BIVN) – A sign-waving event was held on Fathers Day from noon to 2 p.m. along the highway fronting the Hilo Soccer Fields.
The event, organized by Lopaka Palani-Lono Milliora and Ashley McCollum, was held to raise awareness of the missing children on the Big Island.
“What has been going on here in Hawaiʻi, on our island and across our state, with the missing children – the runaways, who are highly likely to be child sex trafficked here on this island, in our own communities,” Milliora said that he and Ashley needed to do something to spread awareness. “So, we made some calls and the community came out as one big ohana… because we all need to spread awareness on what is going on here,” he said.
In recent days, concerns about missing children and fears of child sex trafficking have gripped the island. On June 16, Hawaiʻi Police were asked to deliver a presentation to the Hawaiiʻ County Council on the matter. Police said cases of missing children are not on the rise. There has only been 152 reports so far this year, compared to the 417 in 2019. That’s half as many cases as were reported a decade ago.
“The last few days we’ve had three potential abductions, we’ve had more missing children, and there just wasn’t any kind of an awareness being brought to it,” said councilmember Matt Kanealiʻi-Kleinfelder. “So, we put out the communication, I had a discussion with the police department, and they came down they gave us some really good information.”
Still, with some children still unaccounted for, and citing a January 2019 report on Sex Trafficking In Hawaii: The Stories Of Survivors by Arizona State University and the Hawaiʻi State Commission on the Status Of Women, the community is organizing. For example, Kekai Coakley started the Big Island Missing Children Facebook group.
“I kind of just started off reading comments on Facebook,” Coakley said. “People were saying we should start something that has concise information about, specifically, missing children. A lot of what I see on Facebook is concerned parents, concerned uncles and aunties and grandparents, and they really want to do something about it. But we don’t know what the information is, we don’t know the facts, we don’t know the truth, and we have a lot of people that are ready to act but don’t know what to act upon.”
“I hope this is a call-out to those who have the information, those who are experienced in this field, to come and help out,” Coakley said, “because this takes all of us and all of our skills to do.”