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Local and national groups help in search for Crystal 10-year-old

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Star Tribune
David Chanen
April 3, 2015

The push to find a missing 10-year-old boy from Crystal remained strong Friday as national and local groups offered help to solve his disappearance.

Crystal police said they had no new information on Barway Collins, who emigrated to the United States from Liberia in 2011 with his father. The boy was last seen on the afternoon of March 18 jumping out of his school van outside his apartment building on Douglas Avenue N. Authorities’ search for him has focused on North Mississippi Regional Park in Minneapolis.

Volunteers have conducted informal searches of the park for items that may provide clues to Barway’s fate. A public safety consulting firm plans to train volunteers on proper search procedures. And a national advocacy organization for missing people of color has posted a profile of Barway on its website.

“We may not know him, but he is a part of us,” said Natalie Wilson, one of the founders of Black and Missing Foundation Inc. “We know his name. He could be any of our children. We need to do whatever we can to find him.”

When last seen, Barway was wearing a black jacket, a white T-shirt, black pants and red shoes and carrying a red backpack. On Thursday, a citizens’ search of the park turned up a red shoe that police said wasn’t linked to the boy. A knife and a red backpack also were found. Police said all items recovered during the search will be analyzed over the next few days to determine whether they have any evidentiary value.

Authorities have identified Barway’s 33-year-old father, Pierre Collins, as a suspect in his son’s disappearance, but he has not been arrested or charged, and he has repeatedly said he’s innocent. Police say they have evidence that he was near the river park in the hours after Barway went missing.

As part of its effort to help Barway, Wilson’s group sent the boy’s profile to the producers of television host Nancy Grace just after he disappeared. Pierre Collins then appeared on her show, but he has rarely spoken with local journalists.

“Usually you see family of missing children constantly in the media,” Wilson said. “They should do this. This may pressure law enforcement to add more resources to the case because they don’t want their agency seen in a bad light.”

Citizen efforts to help

David Singleton, chief executive of Minnesota Community Policing Services, offered his group’s help to train volunteers on proper search procedures to preserve possible evidence. He was contacted by Missing Children Minnesota to work on Barway’s case. The training will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday at Cedarwoods Apartments, 5450 Douglas Drive N., where the Collins family lives.

Singleton said law enforcement has reservations about volunteer searches, because in some cases “they might do more harm than good.” He said he has talked to Crystal Police Chief Stephanie Revering and that she supports the training his group provides.

“I think the police are doing everything they can with the information they have,” he said.

His group is also conducting its own investigation of Barway’s disappearance and will share any information or evidence it finds with police. Singleton added that he plans to contact Barway’s family over the weekend.

Singleton said he believes Barway’s case isn’t like most missing-persons cases. He said he has a theory about what has happened to the boy but declined to share it except to say that he believes there will be a positive outcome.

Wilson, of the Black and Missing Foundation, said relationships between police and communities of color sometimes are fraught with mistrust that prevents people from coming forward with information that could solve a case. She said her organization takes tips anonymously and forwards them to the proper law enforcement agency. (It does so at its website, www.blackandmissinginc.com.)

As time passes, vital information is disappearing, she said. Until he is found, she said, her group always asks families to hold onto hope that their loved one will return home.

“I know they are looking for answers, good or bad,” she said. “But families can’t sit and wait for law enforcement or the media to help. They need to be proactive.”

Photo credit: Kyndell Harkness – Star Tribune

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