Child Care Provider Seeks Uniform Rules with Missing Children
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A Cedar Falls woman wants Iowa to provide for more rapid and uniform response requirements from local authorities when a child is missing.
Questions have been raised about whether the state could have done more when two cousins disappeared in Evansdale on July 13. They remain missing seven weeks later.
"Those first few hours are crucial," Robin Arnold, a 51-year-old Cedar Falls child care provider, told The Des Moines Register (http://dmreg.co/OR2NY0). "If a child is missing, they're missing."
A search began immediately after police were notified that 10-year-old Lyric Cook and Elizabeth Collins, who has since turned 9, were missing. Within hours, local residents and the media were notified.
One notification system that wasn't used but could have been was a free national service, A Child is Missing, that alerts area residents and businesses.
An Amber Alert wasn't issued. Those alerts are issued only when it is known that a child has been abducted and suspect information is available, officials have said.
Arnold, however, wants alerts issued regardless of whether a missing child has been abducted.
She also would like to see the information displayed on Department of Transportation signs along Iowa highways and interstates.
Right now, the department uses guidelines outlined by the Iowa Amber Alert program, spokeswoman Dena Gray-Fisher said.
Arnold would like to see requirements for local agencies to use automated phone alert programs such as A Child Is Missing.
Sen. Jeff Daniels, a Cedar Rapids Democrat, says he'll push for a review of Iowa law dealing with missing children. He also wants to see the state implement a uniform standard for how law enforcement agencies respond to reports of missing children.
"Having a uniform standard ensures that everything works together," Daniels said. "You're able to strengthen public sector resources and determine what options there are for working with private and nonprofit entities."
Evansdale Police Chief Kent Smock said he requested a Black Hawk County Alert, the county's automated phone notification system on July 13. That alert was sent to 374 residential and business land-line telephones within a half-mile to a mile radius of Collins' home.
He said he based the parameters of the alert on how far the two children were likely to wander.
Smock did not request an alert sent out via A Child is Missing.
A Child is Missing alerts are typically sent to land-line and registered cellphones for people and businesses within a mile of where the missing person was last seen.
Smock said the department didn't deliberately choose not to use A Child is Missing in the Evansdale case. Instead, officers were focused on spreading the word through a variety of means, from phone messages and media alerts to contacting federal officials who can then spread the word even farther.
"You really can't prepare for an incident of this magnitude and fully be prepared, but we follow the state law and we learn from trainings and from other events," Smock said.
In the Evansdale case, local authorities contacted the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children immediately, Smock said.
Notifying the national center prompts the FBI to get involved as well. Many of those officers have much more specialized training and experience related to child abductions, he said.
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