Westminster missing child exercise hones police response

Posted at 6:17 PM, Jul 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-20 20:47:17-04

WESTMINSTER, Colo. – We see all too often the desperation in their faces -- parents of a missing or abducted child behind a cluster of microphones pleading for their safe return.

While the parent’s turmoil is painfully perceptible, what goes on behind the scenes of a missing child investigation is often not. But Thursday during a training exercise, Westminster Police and the FBI shed some light into those tactics and on what immediate actions are crucial to improving the odds of a happy outcome.

Within minutes of a verified child abduction, local and state police will move -- setting up roadblocks and a command post. They will then comb the neighborhood, searching houses, car trunks and even trash cans.

Police will ask parents for pictures of their child, but they don't want touched up or professional photos. Those types of photos convey an unrealistic image of the child.

Local police take the initial tip and assess the seriousness of the situation.

“We consider, 'have they been missing before? Are there any family issues we need to be concerned about?'” said Castle Rock Police Chief Jack Cauley. “If we get to the point where we feel like, ‘Hey there is a little bit more to this.’ We will call the FBI for their resources.”

The FBI has a team that can fly into any community within hours.
"We have technical resources, whether there is an exploitation on social media, cell phone analysis, and we have behavioral analysis at Quantico,” said Joshua Wilson, an FBI agent with the Child Abduction team.

Wilson says it’s crucial the search begins immediately.

"Of the children taken and murdered, 76 percent of those children are killed within the first three hours,” said Wilson.

When you think of a child abduction, it's not always the bad guy using a small puppy to lure a kid. In one very recent case, a man said he had a note from the boy's mother. The child was abducted when he reached for the note.

Training such as Thursday’s exercise helps local police develop strong relationships with state and federal officials before a real child goes missing.