The Exploited and Missing Child Unit investigates cases of abuse and neglect, and children who go missing. It’s the largest law enforcement investigative group in Sedgwick County, utilizing several different agencies.
Investigators say they believe these crimes against children are happening more often, but people are also more aware and more willing to report the crimes.
The case involving missing 5-year-old Lucas Hernandez and the sexual assault cases at the downtown YMCA.
They are all high profile EMCU cases that take a toll on the investigators working them.
“It’s tough to keep morale up as you’re going through something like that, but at the end of the day, all of us want to do a good job and if it’s a missing kid, find that kid,” said Lt. Travis Rakestraw, EMCU Supervisor.
Lieutenant Rakestraw says high-profile cases can take up a lot of their time, but they’re just a few of the disturbing cases they see every day.
“We see sometimes the worst possible cases you can imagine in society, these are cases that aren’t often times put out in the public,” said Rakestraw.
The unit, which includes social workers, a DCF supervisor and members of homeland security, has seen about a twenty six percent increase in rape with victims 13 and under from 2016 to 2017.
As well as about a twenty five percent increase in aggravated indecent liberties cases.
EMCU also investigates runaways with 1800 in Sedgwick County last year.
Rakestraw says they do everything they can to help members not take these often troubling stories home with them at the end of the work day, providing a workout facility, a therapist, and a therapy dog for staff who may be struggling from investigating abuse.
“We’ve got to ensure that our employees are healthy and when you’re dealing with the abuse cases or internet crimes against children task force that they’re viewing child pornography on a regular basis, it’s tough and so they have to have outlets,” said Rakestraw.
Rakestraw says the unit relies on mandatory reporters of abuse, like teachers and health professionals, but say it is crucial that everyone recognize suspicious activity and contact authorities if you suspect abuse or neglect.
If you suspect that, call 911 to report it, right away.