When it happens to you: A child goes missing

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Updated: 2/05/2013 10:42 am Published: 2/01/2013 8:38 pm

Panic, terror, knowing seconds county when a child goes missing from a school bus stop, his neighborhood or front yard.

These are not cases of children with a history of running away, these are children who disappear, perhaps taken by an abductor and who are in immediate danger.

As each second passes when a child goes missing, a child is in danger. Police say after three hours, if a child is abducted in more than half of those cases a child may not be alive.

"A second is forever when they are gone,” said Rhea Smith.

Her 2-year-old daughter went missing last spring. It was the baby’s father but he did not have custody and had a violent history. Twelve days later her daughter was safely found.

In the first three hours police recommend you call authorities, lay out all the details about your child’s family’s past and potential abductor and have a record of your child’s physical history.

In the first hour, nearly half of abducted children die.

The moment you know your child is gone report it to police.

“There is no waiting period. If you think your child is missing you need to call police,” said TPD Exploitation Sergeant John Adams.

Smith wished an Amber Alert was issued but a delay in crucial information about the child’s father could have sped up the process.

"What I should have said is that she is in danger with him, he could harm her," said Smith.

She had delayed in telling police the father had a violent criminal past, one of the several criteria for issuing an Amber Alert.

"You have to emphasize to police that your children are in danger," said Smith.

By the second hour, police are canvassing the area, questioning possible witnesses and confirming a child is in danger.

Family and family friends need to be honest with police.

"We don't care about any histories, anything the parents are trying to hide," said Adams. "When we are out there the only thing we care about is getting the kid back."

Immediate danger and kids with a disability are high priority cases.

Police want to know age, how they can get around, do they have a cell phone, friends, social media accounts and access to a computer.

Police recommend you keep a file of your child's physical characteristics. You can also download the FBI Child ID app to an Android or iPhone. If your child goes missing you can immediately hand over the information.

In the third hour, police are working to enter information about the missing child so parents need to record their child’s physical history.

"They needed the license plate, the make, the model, the color, everything. You have to get every detail,” said Smith.

Twelve days later and 168 miles southwest of Tulsa, police found her daughter who was shaken up after the incident.

"Definitely do not give up,” said Smith.

Police say more than half of the missing cases reported each month are runaways.

Unless there are signs of that a runaway is in danger, police say in most cases, parents and friends gave to search and many times runaways are reunited with their families.

However, police recommend you attempted abductions or strangers approaching kids in case trend pops up.

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