More than 11 children have gone missing every day in South Yorkshire on average since April – including many young people at risk of grooming and sexual exploitation.
Shock new figures uncovered by The Star reveal South Yorkshire Police holds almost 7,000 missing person records for children under 18 from the past two-and-half years.
More than 800 reports have been made in Sheffield alone since April.
But a Freedom of Information response to The Star said police were unable to reveal details of how many missing children were considered to be either at risk or already victims of sexual exploitation.
The force said, because of the way information is stored, it would take too long to examine individual records for such details.
But it did reveal 2,217 missing person logs were recorded in 2012/13, with 2,228 in 2013/14 - equivalent to more than six children being missing every day during both years.
The figures are even higher for this financial year so far – with 2,308 reports since April.
That represents an average of more than 11 reports a day – but South Yorkshire Police said the ‘significant increase’ was down to a change in recording processes.
One of the most high-profile outstanding missing children cases in South Yorkshire in recent years is that of Andrew Gosden, from Balby, Doncaster, who went missing in September 2007 when he was 14.
Andrew was last seen getting off a train in London but has never been found.
From the start of this year, ‘absent’ episodes, where a child is not at a place they are expected to be, are now included in the statistics.
A police spokeswoman said: “The rise in the number of cases of missing people aged under 18 this year is partly attributable to a change in our recording processes, which now includes ‘absent’ episodes.
“This classification is used when a child doesn’t return at a pre-arranged time but has been in contact to say they are at another location and there are no immediate concerns for their wellbeing.
“We have also seen a slight increase in the number of young people in local authority care within our region from elsewhere in the country. Often, they can try to return home, which results in them being reported as missing.”
Police said any report of a missing child receives an immediate response and is treated as a priority.
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