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NCJ Number: 213542 Find in a Library
Title: Hurricanes Katrina and Rita Missing Persons Hotline: Harnessing Technology To Reunite Families
Journal: Police Chief  Volume:73  Issue:3  Dated:March 2006  Pages:30-35
Author(s): Ben J. Ermini
Date Published: March 2006
Page Count: 6
Document: HTML
Type: Program/Project Description
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article describes the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children's (NCMEC's) creation and operation of a hotline designed to reunite children and their families separated due to hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Abstract: In the wake of the storms, the U.S. Justice Department asked the NCMEC to mobilize a network for locating, identifying, and reuniting family members. This task was complicated by little communication infrastructure remaining in storm-affected areas and family members moving from shelter to shelter and State to State. Still, the NCMEC was able the resolve 5,050 of the 5,182 missing-children cases referred to it. A computer-based network enabled the NCMEC to quickly take reports and then disseminate missing children posters through electronic media to millions of people. Information technology provided almost instantaneous access to diverse databases across the country, increasing the speed with which investigators could find and follow leads. NCMEC already had many resources in place, such as a system of 30 phones, and personnel available to answer them. A pool of 160 trained and certified retired police officers was used to collect information critical to search strategies. Communication was aided by running the phones through an Internet server, which is more flexible, cheaper, and faster than traditional phone lines. The hotline became live on Labor Day 2005. The initial onslaught of calls was overwhelming. One of NCMEC's corporate partners supplied a team of retired investigators with expertise in missing child cases. The team went to the affected communities. Digital cameras were used to photograph children in shelters. Another corporate partner, who takes school photos of students, used photos of missing children on file. Digital photo technology and the Internet increased the speed with which NCMEC disseminated critical information about missing children.
Main Term(s): Police policies and procedures
Index Term(s): Disaster procedures; Emergency communications; Emergency procedures; Hotlines; Missing children; Missing person investigation; Technology transfer
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