Chapter 4: Missing and Exploited
Children's Program


The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), the cornerstone of MECP, is a national resource center and clearinghouse located in Arlington, VA. Since its inception in 1984, NCMEC has received more than 1 million calls to its 24-hour hotline, assisted in the recovery of more than 38,600 children, distributed millions of publications, and provided advice and technical assistance to thousands of parents, prosecutors, law enforcement officers, and child service professionals.

During 1996 and 1997, NCMEC's toll-free hotline (800-843-5678) received 235,648 calls, ranging from citizens reporting investigative leads to requests for publications and help from parents, law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and other professionals working on missing children issues. The NCMEC Web site, which provides missing children posters and publications for downloading, registered more than 1 million requests for information.

One of NCMEC's earliest goals was to implement a missing children's clearinghouse in every State. This goal was reached in 1997. In 1984, only two States had clearinghouses for missing children. Today NCMEC is electronically linked with clearinghouses in all 50 States and can instantly transmit photographs and case information. During the past year NCMEC, using OJJDP funds, continued the upgrade of the State clearinghouse online communications network begun in 1996 by installing new computers, scanners, software, and printers. The upgrade substantially enhanced NCMEC's capacity to share information and disseminate missing children posters.

Through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of State and OJJDP, NCMEC continued to handle all incoming Hague Convention cases (cases involving foreign children abducted from countries agreeing to abide by the Hague Convention). NCMEC helps locate children who are brought to the United States from other countries illegally and facilitates visitation or their return to the custodial parent. With additional OJJDP funding, NCMEC assists American parents whose children have been wrongfully removed to other countries. NCMEC helps translate documents, disseminates posters, provides legal advice about the Hague Convention, and acts as a liaison with international law enforcement organizations and missing children advocacy groups. NCMEC has handled approximately 761 Hague Convention cases from 47 countries, resulting in the return of more than 300 children to their country of habitual residence.

NCMEC also developed and implemented a major new training and technical assistance program to help law enforcement investigate cases of missing children more effectively. Authorized by Congress in 1996, the Jimmy Ryce Law Enforcement Training Center, located at NCMEC, is named after the 9-year-old son of Donald and Claudine Ryce who was abducted and murdered in Florida in 1995. Developed in partnership with the FBI and Fox Valley Technical College (FVTC) of Appleton, WI, the center opened on April 15, 1997. It provides an intensive 2-day seminar for law enforcement executives and a 5-day course for law enforcement personnel working on cases of missing children. The seminars are restricted to policy-level law enforcement executives and highlight the most current research and practice related to missing children. During 1997, 242 chief executives attended the seminars. The 5-day course for investigators is held on a regional basis and helps Federal, State, and local law enforcement personnel working on missing children cases strengthen their investigative techniques. During 1997, 634 law enforcement investigators received this training.

Police in Portsmouth, MA, credit OJJDP with helping them solve the tragic case of a 10-year-old Cambridge youth who was abducted and murdered by two individuals who lured him into a car with the promise of a bicycle. Remembering that the Portsmouth police department had recently hosted an OJJDP seminar on responding to reports of missing and abducted children, the State police, who were coordinating this investigation across several States, asked for their assistance. Using the training they had received from OJJDP, the Portsmouth police department set up a command post to coordinate the search for the young boy. One of the suspects confessed that the boy had been murdered but tried to divert the search to the wrong location. Despite the suspect's efforts to divert the search, the police department used concepts learned from OJJDP's training to coordinate search teams and ultimately located the child's body.

Portsmouth Police Department
Portsmouth, MA

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OJJDP Annual Report August 1998