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Chaska Police Receive Missing-Child Software

Published in the Chaska Herald 

Photo taken by Mark Olson, The Chaska Herald

(July 23, 2003)--  The Chaska Police Department recently joined the Lost Child Alert Technology Resource (LOCATOR) program, sponsored by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, located in Virginia. 

Chaska Police Chief Scott Knight and his staff have trained with the NCMEC. Patty Wetterling, whose son Jacob was kidnapped in October 1989, also works closely with the center and stopped by the Chaska Police Department to discuss LOCATOR last week. Patty and her husband, Jerry, co-founded the Jacob Wetterling Foundation, and work closely with law enforcement agencies on missing child cases, and the emotional impact child abduction has on a family. 

The National Center, through federal funds, provided the LOCATOR system free of charge to the Chaska Police Department to investigate missing child cases. The center found that when pictures of missing children or abductors are made public, one in six children are recovered as a direct result, according to Knight.

The LOCATOR system is comprised of a Dell Pentium IV computer, HP DeskJet 940C printer, high-resolution scanner, and customized software, and its use is not limited to missing children cases. It includes templates for more than 100 different types of posters such as missing adults, wanted persons, and crime alerts. The system is also compatible with the AMBER Alert plan, Knight said. 

Every hour a child is missing, the likelihood of a safe recovery decreases, Knight said. When an area child (Chloe) was abducted in September, 2000, Chaska police lead a nationwide search. Ultimately the child was located in Indiana after an intensive four day tracking. "We beat the odds on that case," Knight, said. There are many challenges facing law enforcement personnel in missing child cases. One of the greatest is collecting and disseminating the child's descriptive information quickly. LOCATOR was created to provide the computer hardware and software needed to rapidly distribute critical missing child data on a local, statewide, or national level. 

"When we were working Chloe's case we had to rely in large part upon numerous fax machines across the nation to get flyers out to law enforcement. And, running down the fax numbers and operating the fax machine took the time of one of our team members almost exclusively," Knight said. Knight urges parents and caretakers to act immediately, if they believe that their child is missing, by taking the following steps: 

* Call the Chaska Police Department immediately, by dialing 911. 
* If your child is missing from home, search the house checking closets, piles of laundry, in and under beds, inside old refrigerators, parked cars including the truck space and anyplace a child may crawl or hide. 
* If your child disappears in a store, notify the store manager or security office. Employees should be immediately mobilized to look for the missing child, and the police should be called. 
* When you call the police, be prepared to provide your child's full name, date of birth, height, weight, and any other unique identifiers such as eyeglasses, braces, etc. Be able to give a detailed clothing description. 
* "The importance of a current photograph to give to the police cannot be understated," Knight said. He asked all parents "to grab a camera right after reading this article and take pictures of their kids. It's a win-win, they will have current photos, and the extras can be sent to grandparents, and aunts and uncles, as a nice surprise."

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