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Raleigh Authorities Look At Ways To Reunite Families With Runaways

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Last year, officials say there were more than 7,000 runaways reported in North Carolina. It is a huge problem for police who have to put many man-hours into tracking down kids who do not want to be found, but it is also a desperate situation for families who want to get their kids off the street and home alive.

George Zachmann has wonderful memories of his 15-year-old daughter Ashley, but what he really wants is to have her home again.

"It's a rollercoaster. From one minute to the next, I don't know if she's alive," he said.

Two weeks ago, Ashley ran away from her parents' Raleigh apartment. She has left home more than a dozen times.

"I walk through every day (and) think I've done something wrong," Zachmann said.

Authorities say Ashley has been spotted in a neighborhood off of New Bern Avenue. George Zachmann made fliers and handed them out, hoping someone will see her and call police.

"It's a priority. We don't want underaged kids out on the streets by themselves," said Detective Barbara Cojocar, of the Raleigh Police Department.

Cojocar said parents should not blame themselves, but they should report the runaway to police and help investigators learn as much as they can about the child's background, friends and hangouts.

"Find out why they are running away so we can help solve the problem. Not just bring them home and that's the end of it. Go beyond that, find out why they're running away," she said.

In Ashley's case, her father claims she is addicted to drugs.

"I love her. I miss her. I pray that nothing happens to her. I want her home," Zachmann said.

Of the more than 7,000 runaways in North Carolina last year, more than 6,000 were found. Officials say many kids come home on their own. Police say the key is to follow up with counseling or programs that get to the root of the problem.

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