By Stephanie Pillado
A sea of faces glistened on black and white ink across a bulletin board in the Santa Clarita Sheriff’s Office, all ranging between toddlers to adults. “Missing” read across the bottom of their pages; on average one in every ten people go missing in the Santa Clarita Valley. The Santa Clarita Sheriff’s Department works diligently around the clock to find those that have gone missing.
Fortunately some of those that have gone missing are found alive, but there are many either never return or are found dead. The Sheriff’s Department could not be successful in their search for missing people if it also weren’t for the help of the public. Looking through all the faces of the missing people on the bulletin it begged the question: How can the public in finding a missing person?
It was just like any other day at the Santa Clarita Sheriff’s Department with officers walking on and out of the building, phones ringing nonstop, and the sound of the coffee maker boiling in the backroom. Sergeant Vandervilt was sitting across the table with paperwork regarding updates with current missing people. Many of them held possible leads and others that have gone on for many months without a single update. “We try our best to make sure that a case does not go unsolved, but when a case goes on too long we hand it over to the Los Angeles Police Department,” Sergeant Vandervilt said. The latest missing person in the Santa Clarita Valley is 40 year-old Tomas Sanchez-Figueroa who went missing back in February. His family did tell police that Figueroa had been experiencing depression when he went missing. Another man had also went missing in the Santa Clarita, 58 year-old William Cierzan who vanished from his home on January 26th and 30 year-old Jake Roberson who went missing January 13th.
“When a person goes missing it can be scary for everyone, even for those of us in the department involved in the case because we don’t know what to expect. We try and prepare for anything that we may find. We always hope for the best,” said Sergeant Vandervilt. In the case of missing 40 year-old Tomas Sanchez-Figueroa he went missing around 10 p.m. a few blocks away from his home. His family described him as 5 feet 5 inches, weighing about 168 pounds, has brown slick hair, mustache and brown eyes. 30 year-old Jake Roberson was originally from San Diego whose care was found in the northbound lane of Interstate 5 in Santa Clarita. His mom said he was taking medication to treat his bipolar disorder. “When he’s off his meds, he gets very spiritual, very religious and loses focus,” she said, noting her son’s been hospitalized in the past after having failed to take his medication. She did state that her son was on a spiritual quest going up north, but he failed to take his belongings with him.
The last update that the department was able to find on Mr. Cierzan was blood that was found inside his home, but the blood was not sufficient enough to rule that any foul play was involved. There are still no other updates on Mr. Roberson or Mr. Figueroa. How were the police able to find this evidence? Was it solely up to the department or was it also through the help of the public? “We always need the help of the public without the public more than half the cases that we’ve had would have gone cold,” Shirley Miller, of the Santa Clarita Sheriff’s Public Relations Department, said. How is it that the public can get involved in helping find a missing person?
“If the person that is missing is someone that you know there are several factors that you have to take into consideration and that is the age of the missing person and if that person is a threat to themselves or if their life has been threatened. If the person missing is a child you need to contact law enforcement immediately. For adults there is a 72 hour grace period unless the person has some kind of mental or other health related problems,” Detective Ralph Hernandez stated. It is important to have a description ready and to let the department know everything there is to know about the person so as to be aware of any potential dangers that this person may be prone to. The public has to keep their eyes open when the department broadcasts information regarding the missing person. When describing the features all the way up to the location of where the person was last scene it is important for the public to be aware and to call law enforcement as soon as they spot the person or spot anything suspicious in regards to the person.
“We cannot stress enough how important is is for the public to get involved with helping law enforcement find a missing person,” Shirley Miller said. The public going out and making posters and doing their a bit of their own search has been a huge help, according to police. However, the department does stress that the public do not put themselves in any danger. What they mean is that they don’t want people going into potentially dangerous homes where they may believe that the missing person is on or put themselves at risk in anyway. The best thing to do is to contact law enforcement as soon as they suspect something or see something. “The best thing to do is call 911, if there is a car where anyone suspects the missing person to be in or in a home, do not go anywhere near it,” said Sergeant Vandervilt. The department does not want anyone putting themselves in danger and should leave any further investigation to police.
The police need the public just as much as the public needs the police. The important thing is to keep an eye out for anything suspicious or any tips. Be safe when facing anything suspicious by calling law enforcement.