Articles Posted in Missing Children

amber%20alert.jpgChild abduction prevention starts with knowing the statistics on child abduction. The United States Justice Department revealed some unsettling facts: an estimated 800,000 children are reported missing every year in the United States. That amounts to roughly 2,200 each day. Fortunately, the vast majority of children are located quickly.

May 25, 2011 was National Missing Children’s Day. The day serves to remember the children that are still missing, and in their honor, stress the importance of making child protection a national priority. Law enforcement officers from across Central Florida gathered in downtown Orlando on Wednesday to promote the campaign called “Take 25.” The campaign encourages parents to spend 25 minutes to talk to their children about safety from abductions. Listed below, are a few of the 25 safety tips that officials distributed to parents at the event. To view the complete list, see Law enforcement leaders gather to promote child safety campaign.

* Teach your children their full names, address, and home telephone number.

State%20Map%20Florida.jpgLeashing children in order to keep them from wandering away has sparked quite a debate among parents and the public in general. Take for instance a 28-year-old Jacksonville mother who is adamant about leashing her 2 1/2-year-old son who has a habit of wandering off in public places. She claims her decision is influenced by several kidnappings that happen a year as well as a recent Central Florida disappearance of an 11-year-old girl with Asperger’s syndrome. The girl spent four days in a Florida swamp after disappearing from her home.

This mother says she has received rude messages from other parents, however, she feels those consequences (rude comments and glares) are worth the price or effort of being cautious and safe. Also, this mother does not feel she is treating her child like an animal – a common argument from protesters of the practice.

Many child safety devices are available on the market: GPS devices, leashes, safety stickers, buttons and temporary tattoos embedded with general contact information worn on the child’s body. However, these devices should not be used as a supplement for supervision whether it be parental, teacher, or daycare supervision. Children should be taught and constantly reminded of basic safety measures when talking to or approached by strangers, walking to and from school, or wandering away.

Church.jpgAfter Somer Thompson was kidnapped and murdered last October, her memorial was held in the First Baptist Church of Orange Park, Florida. That same church was recently the site of a training seminar aimed at teaching parents how to keep their children safe from predators. Ken Wooden, a child protection expert, provided the 300 parents who attended with a list of “lures” that predators use to attract their victims. According to Wooden, if you teach your kids the lures, they will be better able to resist them.

Wooden, who runs the organization Child Lures and Teen Lures Prevention, told the audience that the most common lures play on a child’s need for attention, their desire to be helpful or to obey those with real or perceived authority. Wooden says that the lures are so powerful they can even be used on older “children” on college campuses or military bases.

Wooden’s program is so successful that it is even used by the United States Secret Service, United States – State Department, and the Federal Bureau of Investigations – FBI. Florida law enforcement officers in attendance at the Orange Park event said that they could remember many cases where the lures Wooden discussed were used to abduct a child.

Fingerprint.jpgNineteen year old Jasmine White apparently followed Augustin Duclos and his three week old son, Melvin, home from Shands Jacksonville Medical Center. At the hospital, she presented the man with false credentials and papers saying that she worked for the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF). She informed Duclos that his son was being taken into DCF custody because of suspected child abuse, and that an investigation of the family was underway.

When Duclos contacted authorities several hours later, he found out that there was no such investigation and that his child had been kidnapped. An Amber Alert was issued and the police got started trying to track down the missing child.

According the Jacksonville, Florida Sheriff’s office, they were able to get one fingerprint off of the forged paperwork, and identified Jasmine White from a juvenile arrest for auto theft. Melvin was found with Ms. White ate her mother’s home shortly thereafter. He was unharmed. Ms. White was arrested on several charges including kidnapping, fraudulent use of identification and interference with child custody.Sheriff John Rutherford said that the FBI, the US Marshall’s office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement were instrumental in helping his office find and arrest Ms. White.

EmergencyPhone.jpgThe “A Child is Missing” alert system, based in Florida, can be used by authorities to help find missing children quickly. Once police activate the system, hundreds or even thousands of residents in the nearby area will receive automated phone calls asking them to help find the child.

When Lindsey Young of Manchester, New Hampshire left her home on a Sunday evening and was not heard from again, police launched an extensive search for the girl. They visited her friends’ homes and other locations the girl frequented. When police were unable to find Lindsey, they activated the “A Child is Missing” system, which sent recorded messages by telephone to hundreds of residents living in the vicinity of her home. The recorded message provided information about Lindsey and her appearance, in the hope that someone might have seen or talked to her.

While it appears that Lindsey ran away from home, police are still worried for her safety due to the harsh winter weather and the length of time she has been missing. Anyone with information about Lindsey should call the Manchester police immediately at 603-668-8711.

PoliceCar.jpgA Port St. John, Florida woman called the Brevard County, Florida Sheriff’s Office before noon on a recent Saturday morning, after finding an eighteen month old child in a diaper at her front door. According to Deputy Andre Walters, the woman was familiar with the child’s family, and directed police to the home of Sarah R. Petty, where they found a three year old at home alone.

Witnesses said that they had last seen Ms. Petty leaving her home at 8:00 p.m. the previous evening. After a few hours of searching, deputies located Ms. Petty at a friend’s home a few blocks away. According to officers, Ms. Petty was drunk when they found her.

Ms. Petty has been charged with child neglect and has been taken to the Brevard County jail. The two children are now with their father, who was out of town at the time of the incident, and the Florida Department of Children and Families has been notified about the situation. The Sheriff’s investigation into the matter is still ongoing.

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Tempe, Arizona resident Elizabeth Johnson was extradited from Florida over the holidays after she failed to appear for a child custody hearing in Phoenix, Arizona. Her child, Gabriel Johnson was not with her at the time, and the child’s whereabouts are still unknown.

Elizabeth reportedly had tried to give the baby up for adoption in the past, turning her son over to a Scottsdale, Arizona couple she met in an airport several months previously. She later took the child back, and recently sent text messages to the child’s father, Logan McQueary, saying that she had killed the child. She now claims that she handed him over to a couple she met in a park in San Anonio, Texas. According to Ms. Johnson’s Grandfather, Bob Johnson, she was desperate to get the child adopted and may have tried to find a willing couple on Craigslist or some other online service. Police still do not know if the child is dead or alive, or if the child is in Texas, Florida or Arizona. Ms. Johnson has been charged with kidnapping, child abuse, and custodial interference. She is refusing to cooperate with authorities.

Find out more about this story at Missing Baby “Persons of Interest” Speak.

Traffic.jpgThree children, one as young as two years old, escaped undetected from a Grace Community Schools daycare center in Cape Coral Florida. The children crossed a busy street where they were gathered up by concerned onlookers. Moments later a few of the school’s employees came outside to look for the kids. One of the onlookers, Nicholas Nuzzi, called the Cape Coral police department to report the incident. He also made a report to the Florida Department of Children and Families.

The Florida Department of Children and Families has confirmed that it is investigating the complaint, and that this particular incident is one of several charges of abuse and neglect made against Grace Community Schools’ schools and daycare center operators. Because the schools are run under a religious exemption, they are not licensed or inspected by the state. Read more about this daycare at Toddlers escape from Cape Coral daycare.

In Florida, a day care center can operate under a religious exempt status if the day care center is part of a bona fide religious institution. But even religious exempt day care centers have employment screening and background checks as well as other requirements. Parents should the take the time and effort to collect information and speak to the day care owners, day care workers, other parents, and the State regulatory agency about the day care center where they will be leaving their child, whether the daycare is state licensed or not.

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Stephen Hilla of El Dorado, New Mexico, picked up his three kids from his ex-wife for a visit last week and never returned. The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s department issued a warrant for his arrest soon after. Hilla was picked up several days later in a Florida state park on Key West. He was found after a concerned passer-by called police to report that he had left two dogs unattended in his truck. The ranger was able to identify Mr. Hilla as a fugitive by using the NCIC database. Hilla was arrested and the children were placed in custody. Joanna Hilla, the children’s mother says she has been in agony not knowing where her children were for several days. Hilla will be taken back to New Mexico and will reportedly be charged with child abduction and child endangerment.

While it is natural for parents to miss spending time with their children after they lose custody of them, breaking the law to do so is never the right answer. It is important for parents in Florida and other States to follow the orders of Judges and to go through the legal system to make any changes regarding support, custody and visitation. For more information, see Abducted kids, father found in Florida.

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Florida Department of Law Enforcement spokesman Mike Morrison has announced that the agency has cancelled an Amber Alert put out for a kidnapped girl. Apparently, two young boys decided to play a prank, calling police to report that they had seen a seven-year-old girl snatched right off the street and driven away in a white van.

In response to the false report, authorities put out the Amber Alert, asking citizens to be on the lookout for a white van with two males in the front seat, and a young girl wearing a blue skirt and a pink or purple shirt. Police also expended resources on a massive land and air search for the vehicle and the girl, including going to the homes of 105 registered sex offenders living in the area. Now that the hoax has been uncovered, police have called off the Amber Alert, but have not said if the boys will be charged with a crime for the false report.

An Amber Alert is a system for activating an urgent bulletin across news outlets and highway signs in the case of a child abduction. Since its inception in 2001, the program has helped save 492 children. Incidents like the false report made by these two young boys can threaten the efficacy of the alert program. Hopefully the public will continue to take these alerts seriously and do what they can to aid investigators find missing children. Find out more about the false report of a missing Florida girl at Amber Alert for Missing Florida Girl Based on False Report.