Law Enforcement Relations

Statistics regarding America’s missing children are staggering. According to the most comprehensive missing child statistics ever compiled, every year in America there are:

  • 114,600 Attempted Abductions;
  • 4,600 Non-Family Abductions;
  • 450,700 Runaways;
  • 438,200 Lost/Injured/Otherwise Missing;
  • 354,100 Family Abductions;
  • 127,100 Thrownaway Children.

These 1988 statistics illustrate the low priority given to missing child cases: they are old and questionable and a promised update has yet to be published despite the fact that twelve years have passed. An overall lack of knowledge, training and preparedness exists on the issue at most levels, including law enforcement. Formal kidnap protocols are not widely distributed among law enforcement agencies and most agencies have little or no experience investigating non-family or predatory abductions. So, if one occurs in your community, your local law enforcement agency might be ill prepared to investigate the case.

With approximately 77 abductions by family members for every kidnapping by a non-family member law enforcement will inevitably follow the statistics and concentrate on the child’s known universe. They will launch parallel investigations with a focus on the family and move outward. Like concentric ripples in a pond, they will look at family, friends and acquaintances, peripheral contacts, sex offenders registered in the community and finally the most frightening and daunting scenario of all: strangers.

As intrusive as it may become and as irrelevant as it may seem, fully cooperate with law enforcement and eliminate yourself as a suspect. They will ask questions that seem irrelevant and may even ask you to take a polygraph examination. It is not fair, but it is necessary. Remember, like you, law enforcement doesn’t know where your child is and the sooner they are able to gather and assimilate information and evidence, the sooner they are going to be able to direct their investigation toward the solution.

In your efforts to create good relations with law enforcement try to establish mutually beneficial ground rules. Ask for a law enforcement contact that can work as an official liaison. This will establish necessary stability, create trust and ease the flow of information. Work with your law enforcement liaison to ensure that relevant information about your child’s case will be relayed to you through official channels instead of through the media. This simple step could save endless heartache as the investigation progresses. The last thing you want to do is turn the television on in the morning and have a reporter announce that they have uncovered bones they believe are your child’s.

Despite the popular notion that defense attorneys are a necessary component in a missing child case, think very carefully before you hire a lawyer. Despite the protestations of parents in certain high profile missing or murdered child cases, lawyers hinder and otherwise negatively challenge investigations. Lawyers protect your interest, not your child’s. They are investigative barriers: limiting law enforcement access; insisting on being present at all interviews and their mere presence casts suspicion on your motivation.

Be Prepared

It is really very simple. The better prepared you are to assist and cooperate with a missing child investigation, the greater the chances of a successful recovery. If you believe that a predator has taken your child have the following items on hand for the responding officer:

  • Identifying information, an updated photograph and a detailed description of what the child was wearing.
  • If you have a fingerprint card or DNA samples, please make them immediately available.
  • Detailed Description of what the child may have taken with them or had with them when they disappeared. This would include money, luggage, photographs and letters, maps or travel brochures.
  • Everything in terms of routes or destinations that your child would be familiar with including individuals they may visit and play locations.
  • Names, addresses and phone numbers of their friends, acquaintances and anybody else they would potentially have been in contact with.
  • Make your home computer available to law enforcement so they can check browser history, document history, messenger contacts, email flow and any other clues that might be learned from your hard drive.
  • Go through the child’s belongings and give law enforcement any diaries, letters or other unusual documents that you might find.
  • Check clean and dirty clothing for anything that is unfamiliar or may otherwise give you a clue.
  • Check most recent phone bills for anything out of the ordinary or that you are unaware of.
  • Look for anything that will give you a clue as to your child’s state of mind including input from friends and neighbors. It might help you and law enforcement determine if your child has been stolen, lured or is a runaway. Remember, you are trying to limit the possibilities.
  • You should also contact your child’s doctor and dentist about releasing medical and dental records.
  • Collect scent articles like dirty underwear, socks, and pajamas and store them in separate plastic bags as soon as possible for potential search dogs. Do the same with hairbrushes and toothbrushes. Make these articles available to law enforcement and encourage them to facilitate search and rescue efforts if that option is viable.