Alert system could save precious time in abduction

Time is a valuable commodity when a child is abducted.

Every hour a child is missing, the chances of recovery decrease, according to law enforcement officers.

According to a study by the Washington State Attorney General's Office, 74 percent of abducted children who are murdered are killed within three hours of their abduction.

The Mohave County Sheriff's Office will soon implement the Lost Child Alert Technology Resource system, or LOCATER, Sheriff Tom Sheahan said.

The program is designed to get a child's description out quickly locally and statewide.

The sheriff's office recently received a LOCATER package with a computer, printer, scanner and customized software with congressional funding through the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

Sheahan said the system should be operating in about a month.

High quality color photos and other information about an abducted child can then be faxed or e-mailed to local newspapers or radio and onto a national database within minutes.

"What needs to be done is a statewide system," Sheahan said.

The computer system will speed up the distribution of information, which now goes through several time-delaying contacts, Sheahan said.

The quicker the pictures and information of an abducted child and a suspect are available to the public, the better the odds of recovering the child, the sheriff added.

The majority of abductions are by family members, Kingman police Lt.

Dean Brice said.

Mohave County Sheriff's Office spokesman Jarrod Lyman said there were no child abductions in the county during the past year.

There have been several family interference incidents, which are not classified abductions, he said.

The computer software includes templates for more than 100 types of posters such as missing children or adults, suspects and crime alerts.

A statewide child abduction alert system similar to California's is being considered for Arizona, Department of Public Safety spokesman Steve Holden said.

When a child is abducted like the recent abduction of two teen-age girls in California, law enforcement agencies post an immediate alert by radio, television and electronic freeway signs.

The California girls, minutes from possible death, were rescued when the suspect was spotted by animal control officers and shot and killed by police officers.

Electronic freeway signs such as on U.S.

Highway 93 and Interstate 40, which inform motorists of Hoover Dam restrictions, could be used to alert people of an abduction, Sheahan said.

Holden said that Maricopa County hopes to implement a similar system by the end of the year.

Plans to have the system throughout the rest of the state, including Mohave County, could be implemented within a year, he added.