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Thursday, March 28, 2013

AMBER Alert Sparks Dangerous Reminder About Child Safety: San Jose Police Release Sketch of Kidnapping Suspect


This police sketch depicts a suspect in the kidnapping of a baby girl from her East San Jose home on March 25, 2013. The infant was found safe later that day. Detectives are still looking for a Latina woman between 38 and 45 years old, 5 feet 5 inches tall, 160 pounds, with a dark complexion, dark hair pulled back into a lower bun, last seen wearing a dark, possibly suede, tight-fitting jacket and dark pants. (San Jose police)


It can happen in a moment. You leave your car running, keys in the ignition, and run inside the house for a “quick minute” while the car warms up before heading out on your day.

Drivers do it all the time. I’ve done it myself. We never think that today could be the day that our car gets stolen while doing so.

Well, that is exactly what happened at 6:43 a.m. on Monday in the driveway of an East San Jose home on Amador Drive, and what sparked a statewide AMBER Alert. The Amber Alert was not called for the stolen vehicle, but for the 11-month old baby in the back seat.

In between trips by the baby’s mother to load the car, a woman (suspect sketch above) jumped into the running vehicle and drove off.

A massive police search and AMBER Alert ensued including police helicopters, specialized task force, and missing children agencies. Law enforcement even shut down a section of Highway 101 to search evidence.

As the search intensified, police dispatch received a call that the stolen vehicle was in the alleyway of an apartment complex near Andrew Hill High School in the Seven Trees neighborhood of San Jose. 14 year veteran, Officer Carlos Acosta, and his partner arrived at the scene to find an abandoned vehicle… with a baby crying inside. While the 11-month old was distraught and scared, she was safe.

While the safe recovery of the child is most important, Monday's AMBER Alert has sparked a stark reminder about our children’s safety, especially regarding vehicle supervision. There are numerous dangers when leaving your child unattended in a car. A stolen vehicle (AKA - stolen child!) is just one. Children die from hyperthermia or heat strokes every year. They are often times scared while “waiting” for your return. It is even against the law in many states.

It is illegal to leave a child unattended in your vehicle according to California law (and many other states). It is even punishable by law. Just last year, one California mother was arrested on suspicion of felony child endangerment and held in lieu of $100,000 bail.

At the end of the day, would you rather save a few minutes, or potentially save your child’s life? The choice is yours.

Anyone with knowledge about the suspect's whereabouts or information about the case can contact San Jose Police Robbery Detectives Enrique Garcia or Jesus Mendoza at 408-277-4166, or leave a tip with Silicon Valley Crime Stoppers at 408-947-STOP (7867) or tipsubmit.org. 

Written & Edited by Anthony Gonzalez for Child Quest International

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

My Child is Missing! What Do I Do?




Do you remember the last time your little one ran off in the supermarket while your back was turned?  Do you remember how your pulse quickened, and how that bitter taste appeared in your mouth as your body rushed with adrenaline? Do you remember the panic starting when you realized she's not in the neighboring aisle? Probably not. The thing you probably remember most is the feeling of relief when you see her three aisles down with an open box of cereal.  The only thing she remembers is Mommy crying and saying "Never do that again!"

Some parents aren't so lucky. An estimated 2,300 children go missing every day. While it is impossible to completely prevent the chance of your child going missing, it is easy to minimize the wasting of time in an investigation. The first 3 hours after a child goes missing are crucial to the success of finding them safely. Building and maintaining a comprehensive child ID kit will provide a wealth of knowledge to the police in an instant, at a time when it’s most important.

First and foremost, stay calm. Your child needs you. That means that no matter how hard it may seem, you have to keep a level head. Call the police, tell them everything you can. Chances are, the police will come to you. Make sure the first thing you hand them is the ID kit. The moment they have this information, they can start the search. You’ll feel relieved that the police are looking for your child, rather than watching you look for a recent photo.

What information should be kept in an ID kit?

That depends on the age of your children, but here are some basics:
  1.  Recent Photograph - this is paramount
  2.  Physical description - keep this updated as the little ones turn into bigger ones!
  3.  Medical information - note any medications, conditions or other items the police may need to know
As our children get older, their lives get more complicated. They use Facebook, email, cell phones, and who knows what else! Here are some important things to have for older children (and adults).
  1. Cell phone number, wireless carrier, and the mobile equipment identifier (MEID) of the phone - learn how to find your MEID here.
  2. Passwords (email, social networking, video games)
  3. Names and addresses of friends
If you have all this information, great!  Now the question remains, what do you do with it?

1.       Immediately call your local law enforcement agency.
2.       If your child is missing from home, search through:
·         Closets.
·         Piles of laundry.
·         In and under beds.
·         Inside large appliances.
·         Vehicles – including trunks.
·         Anywhere else that a child may crawl or hide.
3.       Notify the store manager or security office if your child cannot be found when in a store. Then immediately call your local law enforcement agency. Many stores have a Code Adam plan of action in place.

When you call law enforcement:

·         Provide law enforcement with your child’s name, date of birth, height, weight and descriptions of any other unique identifiers such as eyeglasses and braces. Tell them when you noticed your child was missing and what clothing he or she was wearing.
·         Request law enforcement authorities immediately enter your child’s name and identifying information into the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NIC) Missing Person File. Keep a record of the NIC number with your child's police report.

After you have reported your child missing to law enforcement, call Child Quest International (CQI) at 1-888-818-HOPE or another missing children's agency. Here's how CQI can help:

When you call CQI, a Call Center specialist will record your report. The CQI case management team will follow up directly with your family and the law enforcement agency investigating your case. The case manager will offer technical assistance tailored to your case to help ensure all available search and recovery methods are used. As appropriate CQI case management teams:

·         Rapidly create and disseminate posters to help generate leads.
·         Rapidly review, analyze and disseminate leads received on 1-888-818-HOPE (1-888-818-4673) to the investigating law enforcement agency.
·         Communicate with federal agencies to provide services to assist in the location and recovery of missing children.
·         Provide peer support, resources and empowerment from trained volunteers who have experienced a missing child incident in their own family.
·         Provide families with access to referrals they may use to help process any emotional or counseling needs.

As you can see, there is a lot to do when a child goes missing. In an effort to both prepare and protect, we recommend creating a plan for such an emergency.  

Involve your close friends and family members. In the event that your entire family goes missing, all of that planning will do you no good if no one else knows where it is. Make sure to keep the access to information as limited as possible. You only need three to four allies to make your plan effective. If you involve more than that, there is the possibility that too many people will be involved, and the police will not know who to take the information from.

Make sure your information is readily accessible. Children are at risk at any time and at any place. If you build the most comprehensive kit in the world, it will not help if it’s locked in a safe deposit box at the bank, and your child goes missing on a Saturday evening. A portable kit can travel with you on vacation and can accompany your children on trips to Grandma and Grandpa’s. 

Keep all this information up to date! People are surprised at the number of items that change in the course of a few years. The most important thing to keep updated is a photo. Make sure you either have it printed or on a digital file ready for sending. An emergency is not the time to learn how to send a photo from your phone. Other things that change are physical description (height, weight, hair length), contact information, and passwords.

As parents, we do everything we can to keep our kids safe. Unfortunately, even the best efforts can come short. There is no silver bullet that will prevent your child from going missing. Having a child ID kit will reduce the amount of time it takes to prepare for an investigation. This can save minutes, and potentially hours. Time is the most critical element when a child goes missing, and being prepared will allow you to focus on the most important thing – bringing your child home safe.

Written by Jeremy Reynolds for If I Go Missing & Anthony Gonzalez for Child Quest International
Editing & Graphics by Anthony Gonzalez for ChildQuest International

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An advocate for missing children and adults, Jeremy Reynolds is the founder and CEO of IfIGoMissing.com (IIGM), an online portal providing users with a secure interface to store important. Inspired to help families and make a difference, he has helped further the industry of caregiving with the launch of IIGM. Taking a responsive approach in protecting loved ones, If I Go Missing helps families take care of those who matter most.

He serves as the state coordinator for Wisconsin for the Center for Search and Investigations (CFSI), a premier worldwide licensed investigators organization, whose goal is to assist and train families in facilitating the search and location of missing children. Jeremy also runs and operates Libby’s House, a group of assisted living facilities located in Sheboygan, Wisconsin specializing in seniors with memory impairment.