Police Department uses public to help locate missing child
Twice within the past two weeks the West Fargo Police Department responded to reports of missing children. What was unusual in both cases was the fact the children were considered endangered. The children had slipped away unnoticed from a secured setting. The care providers had attempted to locate the children on their own but had quickly contacted the police department for assistance. The children were located and returned to their caregiver unharmed. So what happens when a child is reporting missing and what does the police department do when the child is deemed to be endangered.
An endangered child will include a child gone missing under circumstance which were violent or have the potential to become violent. A witnessed abduction or evidence of a possible physical assault at the last known location of a child are examples when a child would be considered endangered. In circumstances where violence has not or is not expected to occur a child could also be considered endangered if they do not possess the mental or physical capabilities to properly care for themselves. The determination of an endangered child is made by the first responding officer.
The first responding officer will contact the reporting person to determine when and from where the child went missing. The officer will ask for a brief history of events and a description of the child and their clothing. The officer will provide the missing child’s information to other officers in the area so that they may watch for the child. The responding officer will begin a physical search of the area the child was last known to be and expand out from there. Other officers will check areas the reporting person said the child might be. The police department will notify convenience stores, park facilities and other areas of attraction to the child. Additional officers and investigators may be brought in to the search depending on the circumstance.
As the search areas grow the police department will bring in tracking dogs and may ask for the assistance of the fire department to conduct wide-area searches. The media also plays a role in notifying the public. With the permission of the caregiver the police department will provide to the media information relating to the missing child. The media may then elect to broadcast the information and request the assistance of the public. The police department can also contact the public directly by using the Code RED telephone notification system. The police department will prepare a message relating to the endangered child that is pushed out by the Code RED system to a selected area. The public may be asked to be on the lookout or to check their property for the endangered child. In the most recent disappearance in West Fargo the Code RED was used.
Each missing child case is unique. The circumstances involved in the case will drive the police department to make the decision on which resources to utilize to orchestrate a successful recovery. When it is believed necessary the police department will ask for the assistance of the public. Such requests will remain limited to avoid over burdening the public.