HANOVER, VA (WWBT) - This Hanover County Sheriff's Office is asking for your help in locating a missing Mechanicsville teen.
Tamara "Tete" Collins, 16, was last seen leaving her home on January 9. She is believed to be in the Metro Richmond area. Collins is described as a black female, 5'4", 140 pounds, with brown eyes, black hair with red highlights. She was wearing a blue sweatshirt and yellow sweatpants. She was last seen walking from her home in Mechanicsville.
No foul play is suspected in her disappearance. Investigators say Collins left her home voluntarily. However, the sheriff's office won't confirm if she's a runaway.
Regardless, any minor on the street is very susceptible to unnerving danger. One reason is because there are few, if any, places for teenagers to get shelter the Richmond area. Most homeless shelters require people to be 18 years old. Shelters are exposed to liability if they admit a minor, without parental consent, especially exposing that child to other adults. Runaway's are often left to the streets.
Seton Youth Shelters in Hampton Roads is rare because it specifically helps homeless or runaway children and teenagers. Seton Youth Shelters executive director, Jennifer Sieracki, says a scary percentage of runaways end up in getting lured into human trafficking, or prostitution very shortly after they leave home.
"Within two to three days, a third of runaways that hit the streets… are lured into pornography, prostitution...and other very, very high risk, dangerous activities," said Sieracki.
Seton Youth Shelters helps thousands of minors a year, from all over the country, including Richmond. Counselors are available to help teens calling from anywhere in the nation, 24/7.
If you have any information about Collins, call the Hanover County Sheriff's Office at (804) 365-6140 or the Metro Richmond Crime Stoppers at (804) 780-1000.