Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office changes missing person policy

Posted at 7:06 PM, Aug 02, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-02 19:06:40-04

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office is now sending media notifications for every missing person and child in the county. In the past, the media has relied, in part, on law enforcement judgment about whether to air or publish stories regarding missing people.

HCSO says so far this year they've received 500 missing juvenile reports and just as many missing adults.

HCSO wouldn't speak to ABC Action News about the policy change on camera but did provide the following statement:

"We now provide the media with all missing person cases so they can now make an editorial decision on if they want to air it or not. The media now has the ability to vet every case."

ABC Action News is committed to vetting every story and alert.

In the past, the sheriff's office would send the media information if the person was considered endangered or there were other, special circumstances.

Just yesterday, ABC Action News received 6 alerts, which raises the concern that people will not take notice when a missing person is truly in danger.

The policy change comes after a missing 13-year-old girl's body was found in a nature preserve in Riverview on July, 12. Janessa Shannon's parents reported her missing on July, 3. She was last seen two days earlier. The sheriff's office said they never sent a  missing juvenile alert because she was not considered endangered due to the fact that both parents said that she had run away previously. Shannon's mother denied ever saying that her daughter had run away before.

Many news outlets learned about Shannon's disappearance from social medial pleas made by her family.

Some stories were not pursued because of the same concerns given by the sheriff's office.