Law Enforcement
Chapter 2

Checklist: Working With
Law Enforcement

The following checklist describes the most important steps that law enforcement can take as the investigation begins. Use this information to deepen your understanding of the investigatory process. Discuss these steps with your assigned law enforcement investigator, keeping in mind that the order of the steps is likely to vary, depending upon individual circumstances.

  • A BOLO (Be On the Look Out) bulletin can be broadcast to local law enforcement agencies to alert them to your missing child, and a teletype can be sent locally or regionally.

  • Your law enforcement agency is required by Federal law to immediately enter your child's name into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) registry of missing persons. There is no waiting period for entry into NCIC for children under age 18. If your law enforcement agency has any questions about compliance with this requirement, contact NCMEC.

  • NCMEC may be asked to broadcast fax your child's picture to law enforcement agencies throughout the country, and assistance from Project ALERT (America's Law Enforcement Retiree Team) investigators may be requested.

  • The FBI's Child Abduction and Serial Killer Unit (CASKU) and Morgan P. Hardiman Task Force on Missing and Exploited Children may be informed of the case or asked for assistance if there is a chance the abduction was predatory.1 Further information about CASKU and the Hardiman Task Force is available from NCMEC.

  • Your local FBI Field Office may be notified in case additional services and support are needed. CASKU services, for example, can be obtained through your Field Office.

  • Your State missing children's clearinghouse will be notified and additional services may be requested.

  • The crime scene -- the location outside your home where your child might have been abducted -- and your child's bedroom will be secured. The officers who respond initially to your call will evaluate the contents and appearance of your child's bedroom and will secure your child's used bedding, clothing, and shoes and place them in clean bags to be used as scent articles. Your child's toothbrush, hairbrush, and other items that might contain DNA evidence will be stored in a safe place, and footprints in dust, mud, or snow will be protected to preserve the scent. You may be asked if personal items are missing, and the last persons known to have seen your child will be interviewed.

  • Tracking or trailing dogs or a helicopter equipped with an infrared or a heat-sensitive device (to detect heat emitted from the body) may be requested after your residence, yard, and surrounding areas have been searched unsuccessfully.

  • Airlines, airports, bus and taxicab companies, subways, ferries, and ports may be advised of the disappearance and given posters of your missing child.

  • Investigators may revisit various "hot spots" or checkpoints either at the same time of day or the same day of the week following the disappearance to see if they can find anyone who has seen something or who recalls something unusual at the time your child disappeared.

  • Your neighborhood watch should be contacted to see if anything suspicious was noticed.

  • The daily log of parking and traffic tickets and traffic stops will be checked to see if anything relates to your child's disappearance.

  • The convicted sex offender registry will be checked to find out if a potential suspect was in the area.

  • Local newspapers should be collected and reviewed to provide possible clues or leads for the search. Local or regional events and activities -- such as carnivals, county fairs, festivals, sports events, and music concerts -- and want ads for hired help may produce names or clues regarding either the predator or a witness to the disappearance.

  • A procedure for handling extortion attempts should be established.

  • Neighboring jurisdictions should be contacted to find out if incidents of a similar nature have occurred there also.

1. Created by the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act in 1994, the Morgan P. Hardiman Task Force on Missing and Exploited Children coordinates Federal law enforcement resources to help State and local authorities investigate the most difficult cases of missing and exploited children.

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OJJDP Report: When Your Child Is Missing: A Family Survival Guide, May 1998