Valley Task Force Ramps Up Ways to Find Abducted Kids

SMU Assistant Police Chief Jim Walters talks about his participation in a task force formed to strengthen procedures for finding abducted children.

By Jim Walsh

A bloodhound picked up the trail of a missing 10-year-old girl by sniffing her jacket, shoe and sock, evidence left behind in a women's restroom at Gilbert's Freestone Park.

Soon, "Freddy" was pulling his handlers from the state Department of Corrections down a dirt path, his sensitive nose pushed to the ground until he came to a grassy wash near some overhead electrical wires, behind a softball field.

Moments later, the drill by the new Child Abduction Response Team last week came to a happy ending. Kennadie, the daughter of a Gilbert police detective and not a real victim, happily petted Freddy after he found her sitting under a tree. (Police asked that her last name not be published because her father is a police officer.)...

In any major criminal case, the initial 24 hours are the most critical in tracking down a suspect, but child abduction cases have a much shorter window for survival, said Jim Walters, a consultant with the U.S. Department of Justice and assistant police chief at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

Studies have found that in child abductions that end in homicide, 76 percent of victims were killed within the first three hours of their disappearance, he said.

"That's why it's so important to get the resources. . . . Time and distance are the principal components you are working against," Walters said.

Distance is important because many abductors attempt to flee to a different location miles away with the child, he said.

Walters and others will evaluate the team's performance at the mock drill to see if it meets national standards.

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