Law Enforcement
Chapter 2

Checklist: Working With Law Enforcement

The following checklist describes the most important steps that law enforcement can take as the investigation begins. Use this information to deepen your understanding of the investigatory process. Discuss these steps with your assigned law enforcement investigator, keeping in mind that the order of the steps is likely to vary, depending upon individual circumstances.

A BOLO (Be On the Look Out) bulletin can be broadcast to local law enforcement agencies to alert them to your missing child, and a teletype can be sent locally or regionally.

Ask your law enforcement agency if it uses the AMBER Alert Plan (America‘s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response). Through AMBER Alert, law enforcement agencies and broadcasters activate an urgent bulletin in the most serious child abduction cases (see The AMBER Alert Plan).

Your law enforcement agency is required by federal law to immediately enter your child’s name into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) registry of missing persons. There is no waiting period for entry into NCIC. If your law enforcement agency has any questions about compliance with this requirement, contact NCMEC.

NCMEC may be asked to broadcast fax your child’s picture to law enforcement agencies throughout the country. Assistance from Project ALERT (America’s Law Enforcement Retiree Team) investigators and Team Adam may be requested. Patterned after the National Transportation Safety Board’s system for sending specialists to the site of serious transportation incidents, Team Adam sends trained, retired law enforcement officers to the site of child abductions involving potential harm to the child and involves these officers in cases of child sexual exploitation. These “rapid-response” specialists, who work in full cooperation with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, advise and assist local investigators, provide access to NCMEC’s extensive resources, and assist the victim’s family and the media, as appropriate.

Your local FBI Field Office may be notified in case additional services and support are needed.

Your state missing children’s clearinghouse will be notified and additional services may be requested.

The crime scene—the location outside your home where your child might have been abducted—and your child’s bedroom will be secured. The officers who respond initially to your call will evaluate the contents and appearance of your child’s bedroom and will secure your child’s used bedding, clothing, and shoes and place them in clean bags to be used as scent articles. Your child’s toothbrush, hairbrush, and other items that might contain DNA evidence will be stored in a safe place, and footprints in dust, mud, or snow will be protected to preserve the scent. You may be asked if personal items are missing, and the last persons known to have seen your child will be interviewed.

Tracking or trailing dogs or a helicopter equipped with an infrared or a heat-sensitive device (to detect heat emitted from the body) may be requested after your residence, yard, and surrounding areas have been searched unsuccessfully.

Airlines, airports, bus and taxicab companies, subways, ferries, and ports may be advised of the disappearance and given posters of your missing child.

Investigators may revisit various “hot spots” or checkpoints either at the same time of day or the same day of the week following the disappearance to see if they can find anyone who has seen something or who recalls something unusual at the time your child disappeared.

Your neighborhood watch should be contacted to see if anything suspicious was noticed.

The daily log of parking and traffic tickets and traffic stops will be checked to see if anything relates to your child’s disappearance.

The convicted sex offender registry will be checked to find out if a potential suspect was in the area.

Local newspapers should be collected and reviewed to provide possible clues or leads for the search. Local or regional events and activities—such as carnivals, county fairs, festivals, sports events, and music concerts—and want ads for hired help may produce names or clues regarding either the predator or a witness to the disappearance.

A procedure for handling extortion attempts should be established.

Neighboring jurisdictions should be contacted to find out if incidents of a similar nature have occurred there also.


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When Your Child Is Missing: A Family Survival Guide OJJDP Report • May 2004