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Joint effort aims to help find missing children

Date: February 20, 2017

Summary:
Enrique’s face and information about whom to call with tips began flashing across 16 digital billboards around the city on Thursday as part of a joint effort among the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

Body:
There was no family celebration when Enrique Medel turned 20 this past Sunday.
Enrique simply disappeared without a trace on March 17, 2011.

“He just vanished,” said his distraught mother Olivia Medel. “My son would never run away. He was just 14 years old and he was a good kid, a smart kid. He wasn’t in a gang, but he was hanging around with the wrong people.”

Enrique’s face and information about whom to call with tips began flashing across 16 digital billboards around the city on Thursday as part of a joint effort among the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, the city of Albuquerque and Clear Channel Outdoor, which is donating the billboard space.

Jason King, vice president of corporate communications for Clear Channel Outdoor, said this is the first time the company has used its billboards in Albuquerque for missing children alerts, although it has been running similar billboard alerts in cities around the country for the past three years.

The alert features a photo of what Enrique looked like in 2011 and segues into an age progression image of what he may look like now. It rotates with other ads and appears about once every minute, 24 hours a day and will do so for the next four weeks, King said. Clear Channel will work with the Center for Missing & Exploited Children to determine which kids in which cities will be highlighted next.

“The medium is very powerful, very noticeable, and people pay attention and will call in if they know something,” King said, adding that, with each missing child campaign in other cities, there was a spike in the number of information phone calls to local law enforcement and to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

At a news conference Thursday below a digital billboard at Lomas and High Street NE, Enrique’s mother shared her son’s story.

Enrique, she said, was an amateur boxer who put on gloves for the first time when he was just 7. In just a few short years, he accumulated 15 wins, including a Junior Golden Gloves boxing championship in Las Vegas, Nev.

Medel, a single parent, said Enrique and his younger sister, Delfina, now 18, were born in Albuquerque. “I raised them in Kansas City, Mo., where I had taken a job and, when I lost the job, we had to move back here. For the first six months, I was having a really hard time finding employment, and me and Enrique would sometimes bump heads, but he was a good kid and would never run away.”

The last time he was seen, Enrique was hanging out with friends near the corner of Indiana and Zuni SE, Medel said. “One of his supposedly best friends was interviewed by police three times, and three times he changed his story.”

That friend was found to be in possession of some of Enrique’s personal effects, including a rosary that Enrique got from his grandfather and a backpack, said Delfina.

Enrique is not alone among the missing. Becky Kovar, a spokeswoman for the Alexandria, Va.-based National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, said the organization’s database showed 460,699 active cases involving missing children. In New Mexico, there are currently 41 active missing children cases, 19 of them in Albuquerque, she said.

Also attending Thursday’s news conference was Albuquerque Mayor Richard J. Berry, City Councilor Isaac Benton, District Attorney Raúl Torres and Albuquerque Police Department commander Paul Czych.

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