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Police are serious about searching for missing children

July 23, 2011|Linda Duffield

The nature of some jobs means those working them routinely come in for criticism, almost certainly never pleasing everyone at any given time.

Newspaper work is one of those jobs. Police work is another.

Law enforcement officers and their departments across the country find themselves criticized for everything from handing out traffic tickets to motorists caught in speed traps to allegations of police brutality and plenty of things in between.

Praise can be harder to come by, and law enforcement officers probably don't get their fair share, even when they deserve it in a big way.

Although there is plenty they do right — local law enforcement agencies seem to have a pretty good track record of getting to robbery scenes fast and tracking and/or nabbing armed suspects — they deserve special praise for the way they handle reports of missing children.

In this area, we don't get a lot of reports of missing kids younger than 14 years old, and that's a good thing. But when such reports do come, the response of our local departments is timely and covers a lot of bases.

In three instances that come to mind, officers moved swiftly, taking action that made it clear they take a report of a missing child seriously. It's not uncommon for police agencies to work together, combining efforts to find a missing child.

Earlier this month, when a 9-year-old boy was reported missing at 10 p.m., the Hagerstown Police Department swung into action. Officers canvassed the child's neighborhood, showed his photo, and used reverse 9-1-1 to alert people to be on the lookout for the child. They also tried to track the youngster's movements with a dog.

The Washington County Sheriff's Office and Hagerstown Fire Department personnel joined in the effort.

By 6:30 a.m. the next day, notification of the missing child and a photo were emailed to the media, which posts such information on websites, and police were working in the area near Antietam Creek where the dog had led them.

From a layman's point of view, it seemed no effort was spared.

That search had a happy ending, when the youngster turned up, safe and sound, later that morning.

It's important to note that the police response in that case seems to be the rule, not the exception.

Maryland State Police at 9:23 a.m. on July 17 received a report of a 3-year-old child being abducted from foster care.

State police received the call early Sunday, according to a time listed on a press release, and by 6:21 p.m. that same day had found the child unharmed and charged the child's biological mother with abduction.

Back in March, when a 12-year-old boy was reported missing in the Boonsboro area, the Boonsboro Police Department, state police and the Washington County Sheriff's Office joined forces. Efforts included use of a bloodhound and a state police helicopter, and residents in that area were notified by an automated calling system.

The boy was found unharmed, three hours later, after someone spotted him in Shafer Memorial Park.  

Two weeks ago, after the 9-year-old boy was found, Hagerstown Police Chief Arthur Smith was quoted as saying the police department begins investigating a report of a missing child immediately after the call comes in.

"What can you take more seriously than a missing child?" he said. "How can you not take something like that serious?"

You can't ask for much more than that.

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