Home News Stories 2006 June New Child Abduction Teams
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New Child Abduction Teams

When Kids Go Missing
Our New Teams Will Help Find Them


Clasped handsIt’s a fearsome thought: a child snatched by a stranger. Who investigates these crimes? We do. It’s our job to handle cases of child abductions.

In 1932, Congress gave the FBI jurisdiction under the “Lindbergh Law” to immediately investigate any reported mysterious disappearance or kidnapping involving a child of “tender age”—usually 12 or younger. And just to be clear, before we get involved there doesn’t have to be a ransom demand and the child doesn’t have to cross state lines or be missing for 24 hours.

In fact, the sooner we investigate, the better. Time is critical when a child is taken. That’s why we have added another tool in our longstanding Crimes Against Children program that works to recover kidnapped kids: our Child Abduction Rapid Deployment, or CARD, teams.

Here’s the “who, what, when, and where” of these teams:

WHO makes up a CARD team? FBI agents and analysts with in-depth experience and a proven track record in crimes against children investigations, especially cases where a child has been abducted by someone other than a family member. Once selected, team members go through extensive training. Each team has a designated leader.

WHAT do the CARD teams do? Relying on their expertise and experience, team members make sure the investigation moves quickly, efficiently, and thoroughly. They provide our field divisions running the investigations with on-site investigative, technical, and resource assistance during the initial critical period after a child is kidnapped.

WHEN are the teams deployed? Soon after an abduction has been reported to a local FBI field office, to FBI Headquarters , or to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, or in other cases when the FBI determines an investigation is warranted.

WHERE are the teams located and WHERE have they been deployed? We’ve created eight regional teams nationwide: two each in the northeast, southeast, central, and west. With the whole nation covered, we can send a team anywhere in the U.S. within hours.

We’ve deployed three teams since they were established early this year: to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in March; and to Purcell, Oklahoma and Smyrna, Tennessee, in April. In the Milwaukee case, two missing boys had actually fallen through the ice of a lagoon and drowned. In Purcell, a neighbor of the 10-year-old victim confessed to her murder the day after he was stopped at an FBI roadblock. The Smyrna case is ongoing.

“We want our best people moving as fast as they can and using every skill they’ve got to find missing kids and bring them home safely. That’s the bottom line of this initiative,” says Supervisory Special Agent Janice Mertz, who heads our Crimes Against Children Unit at FBI Headquarters.

Stay tuned: We recently provided tips for keeping your children safe, particularly when they are on the Internet. Next month, we’ll talk about what you can do as a parent to help law enforcement if one of your kids goes missing.

Links: FBI Crimes Against Children Program | The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children | FBI Innocent Images National Initiative