UPDATE: Herndon police reported on Saturday, July 2, that Fany Torres Gonzales is back home safe. Juana Paola Delgado is still missing.
Herndon police are calling on the public to help them locate two 15-year-old girls. While both are technically runaways, police in Herndon have now adopted a practice of trying to bring runaways home.
Police say worry grows with each passing day that a runaway doesn't return. Their focus right now is on these two girls.
"The reason why we look for these kids so hard is, one, because the lack of knowledge they have when they are walking out and what they are walking into; two, the fact is they are walking into situations [that] although they may control how they leave [home], they may not be able to control how they get back," said Herndon Police Chief Maggie DeBoard.
Juana Paola Delgado was a honor student at Herndon Middle School when she left home in April. Herndon High School student Fany Torres Gonzales has been gone since February. Her mother (who asked that her name not be used) says she brought her daughter to Herndon from El Salvador two years ago, but it's been a difficult adjustment.
"I was strict with her because I wanted something better for her but it seems like that's not what she wanted."
Now that her daughter's gone, she says it's often difficult to sleep.
"It's not easy," said Torres Gonzalez' mother. "I lay down and I know I'm safe but I don't know where she is, if she's eating, if she's sleeping."
The more intensive approach to locating runaways started about two years ago.
Herndon patrol officers begin a search as soon as a parent reports a child has left. If they aren't found within 48 hours, detectives in the criminal investigative section take over. Before the new initiative, they used to wait three days.
"I've decided to amp this up and amp up our investigations so we can locate these children as fast a possible," said the detective leading the effort. NBC4 is not using his name due to his undercover work.
"My goal is to have zero missing kids from the town of Herndon," he said.
As a member of the Internet Crimes Against Children task force, the detective also knows well the dangers for runaways.
"The longer a child is gone, the more dangerous it is," he said. "So there is potential sex trafficking, there's potential of bodily harm. These child don't have income so they have to find their way of getting some type of income."
Torres' mother broke into tears when asked about her fears.
"It worries me because we are in a country where you don't really know the people here and you don't get anything for free," she said. "And I don't know what she could be doing to survive."
Herndon police urge all parents and guardians to report runaways as soon as they fail to return home. Anyone under the age of 21 can be reported as a runaway.
"If your child is missing or has left voluntarily we want you to report them because we want to look for them, find them and make sure they are safe," said Chief DeBoard.
Herndon police also hope that when people see fliers of runaways they will take a close look. They also urge the public to periodically review the photos of juveniles posted on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children web site.
The detective says recent success story validates their persistence -- a girl missing for nine months was located nearby in Loudoun County. Now she's back in a special school program and doing well.