The National Center Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) receives @$35 million annually to “protect” children. Should the federal government be required to provide any justification for the amount of funding? Is it being funded based on emotion because an abducted child in the headlines makes us all gasp? What is the role and responsibility of the NCMEC if the child is not recovered immediately or at all? How long will they post information regarding the missing child?
Should the statistic concerning missing children be available to the general public? Are there valid reasons why the statistical information should be withheld? Granted, it is easy to understand why information should not contain specific cases with sensitive information.
There is an old adage, “what gets measured gets done”. If we don’t have an accurate understanding of the magnitude of the issue and there is no public accounting as to what was actually accomplished, how do you measure the effectiveness? If information is entered immediately based, as required by The National Child Search Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5779, 5780), it should be readily available.
When a child is abducted, law enforcement must collect and disseminate accurate information about the event, the child, and the abductor. Memoranda of understanding (MOUs) for local, state, and regional AMBER Alert plans must define agency roles and responsibilities in abduction cases and establish standards for conducting timely and thorough investigations.
The National Child Search Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5779, 5780) requires law enforcement to immediately enter into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database every reported case involving a missing child. The intent of this law is to ensure that law enforcement disseminates as quickly as possible information vital to the recovery of a missing child. The steps for entering a child abduction into NCIC are critical:
Use the proper NCIC category.
Child abduction cases should be entered into the NCIC Missing Person File in either the endangered or the involuntary category, and the child abduction (CA) flag should be entered. An NCIC number will be automatically assigned when the record is entered. The reporting agency should assign a case or originating agency case (OCA) number to the preliminary or initial investigation. Each entry of a child age 17 or under should be reviewed to ensure that the information has been entered into the appropriate category.
NCIC will then send an immediate notification to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC). NCMEC call center staff will get in contact with the appropriate law enforcement agency to conduct the intake of the case and offer all available resources. The designated supervisor should also audit each entry within one hour of the initial entry to verify and authenticate each record, signature, and time.
If an AMBER Alert is issued, the AMBER Alert (AA) flag should be entered in the record.
If the local law enforcement agency or the Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Systems Agency (CSA) cannot set the flag, NCMEC should be notified immediately so that NCMEC staff can modify the NCIC record on the agency’s behalf. NCMEC can be contacted at 800–843–5678 or reporting agency ORI VA007019W or email@example.com.
NCMEC will then contact the appropriate state AMBER Alert coordinator, who will be asked to approve an update of the NCIC record with an AA flag. The AA flag allows the record to reflect that the child is the subject of an AMBER-classified abduction and is vital to alerting law enforcement and to creating a national tracking system for AMBER Alert cases using the resources of NCIC.
Add the image of the child to the record when available.
When the photo is made a part of the record, any law enforcement officer can view the picture of the child. The image capability can also be used to attach photos of wanted suspects (care should be taken to ensure that the miscellaneous (MIS) field clearly states that the photo is of the perpetrator), vehicles, tattoos, and other identifiers.
Update information about the victim and suspect on an ongoing basis.
Initial police reports are based on preliminary investigations, and information entered into NCIC can quickly become obsolete. Update the NCIC entry or record frequently to ensure that the most current and reliable information is shared with other law enforcement agencies. The investigator assigned to the case should review the entry to be sure the information is correct and that all available information is included. If information on the suspect or vehicle is also entered into NCIC, the records should be linked.