My child is missing!
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My child is missing!

It’s a scenario familiar to every parent: You stop in a store to pick up a few items with your pre-schooler in tow. “Stay right with me” you say as you turn your attention to the sales rack for a second. You feel your child playing next to you… when suddenly that sixth sense that prickles the back of your neck, kicks in. Your child is not near you anymore. You looked away for only a second and now he is gone. You try to keep your cool as you call his name louder and louder, but only silence fills the air. Your heart is pounding and your mind is filled with horrible thoughts; “Help me, my child is missing”, you cry out to anyone who will listen. The store employees immediately jump into action sealing off the store and calling 911. Just as suddenly, your child returns with a big smile and a new found stuffed animal from the store’s display. The color returns to your face, your heart-rate de-escalates and that feeling of despair retreats to one of total relief and exhaustion. Thank you’s to the people that helped just don’t seem adequate.

Actual stranger child abductions are rare, but they do happen. We hear the names, Etan Patz, Adam Walsh, Poly Klaus, Megan Kanka and Amber Hagerman (after whom the Amber Alert was named). These are just a few names that echo fear in parents’ hearts. At one point or another in a child’s life they all go “missing”. Most often, they return on their own safe and sound. But even this short disappearance will cause any parent to confront the worse fear- my child is missing and I don’t know where they are. Statistics show that true stranger abductions are rare, and most of these are directly linked to relatives or family “friends”.

What should I do if my child is missing?

If your child is missing from your home, call 911 and start a search the house checking closets, laundry (yes, even the washing machine and dryer) in an under beds and in vehicles. Look wherever a child might crawl or hide. Time is critical. When the police arrive we will check your home again. If needed, a police dog trained in tracking can be called in to assist. Recently we found a missing child hiding under the attic insulation batts. She was safe albeit hot, sweaty and very itchy! Lesson learned.

If you child should disappear from a store, notify the store manager, then YOU immediately call 911 to report it. Most stores have operational plans and practice sealing off all store exits. Follow the store manager’s directions until a police officer arrives and then we will take control of the search.

When you call law enforcement, provide your child’s name, date of birth, weight, height, and any other unique identifiers such as eyeglasses or braces. Provide a complete description of clothing from head to toe. Answer all questions from the 911 operators and stay on the phone until Officers arrive.

Keep a photo of each one of your children with you. With current electronic advances (IPods, cell phone cameras) we might be able to download a photo within seconds to other law enforcement agencies around the United States. The photo should be recent, head and shoulders, in color and the background should be as plain as possible. A photo should also be available at home, meeting the same criteria as above.

Listen to the directions of law enforcement and cooperate fully.

Teach you children to be alert around strangers and what to do if approached or assaulted. Tell them to trust their feelings if something does not feel right. Report any suspicious activity immediately to the police and listen to your child if she/he tells you about any incidents.

Keep calm. 99% of all missing children are found safe or return home shortly.

Every year the the Teaneck Police Department, under the guidance of Chief Robert A. Wilson, responds to many calls of missing children. Through cooperation with parents, schools and local business establishments we strive to keep our children safe from harm and we have been successful in this endeavor. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to call the Community Policing Bureau at 201-837-8759 or email mfalvey@teaneckpolice.org.

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