Police department moves fast when kids are missing

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 9, 2005

A study by the Washington State Attorney General’s Office indicates that in 71 percent of cases in which kidnapped children are murdered, the killing takes place within three hours of the abduction.

That’s why detective Joyce Williams and the rest of the Suffolk Police Department spring right into action when such a call comes in.

&uot;If a child is abducted, the window we have to find them is very small,&uot; said Williams, a 25-year veteran of the department, in her 17th year as a detective. &uot;As soon as we get a call, we’re going.&uot;

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Officers will search the home from which the child is missing; Williams remembers finding missing children in closets or sleeping in laundry baskets. They’ll search for notes, missing clothing or e-mails to find out where the child may be. Officers interview the parents and enter the child’s name into a computer system at the department to find out if they’ve has run away before.

Police scan photos of the child and start scouring the area, asking neighbors if they’ve seen the kid lately.

&uot;Small children have the potential to wander off,&uot; Williams said. &uot;Kids can move fast. We saturate the area with officers. If we have to, we call the Fire Department search and rescue team, and our canine units.&uot;

Though non-parental abductions are rare in Suffolk, hundreds of runaways have been reported over the past three years, Williams said.

Unfortunately, parents aren’t always able to help.

&uot;It’s alarming what parents don’t know,&uot; Williams said. &uot;A good portion don’t know their children’s friends or their addresses. Some don’t know their children’s Internet passwords.&uot;

Even when kids are found, the department’s job isn’t finished, particularly in the child is a runaway.

&uot;We take their picture and put them into the system, so if it happens again, we’re ready,&uot; said Williams, who said that runaway cases are at their highest during school vacation times.