I've been following the recent developments in the 30+ year old disappearance of then 6 year old Etan Patz pretty closely this week. On the heels of this, USA Today had a story highlighting how advances in response to missing children have improved the odds that children who go missing will be found.
"Technology has fundamentally changed how we search for missing kids," said Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.That's a pretty impressive recovery rate. Part of why this happened is likely due to a holistic approach to the problem.
When the center opened in 1984, days could pass before a child's photo was disseminated, Allen said. Now, details about a child or potential abductor can be circulated almost instantaneously through e-mail, text messages, social media and other electronic means.
That's vital, because "time is the enemy" when a child vanishes, he says. Investigators need to move quickly to prevent an abducted child from being taken out of town, hurt or even killed.
"In 1990, our recovery rate for the cases that we intake here at the center was 62%" — and now it's 97%, he said. "The primary reason for that change is technology."
Lawmakers passed well crafted laws requiring law enforcement to respond in a timely manner and to report these abductions as well as providing funding for clearinghouses such as the National Center for Missing And Exploited Children along with other measures. Law enforcement has responded by providing better training and guidelines on how to investigate and respond to these incidents. Trade organizations for advertising, telecommunications and other industries responded by providing their resources to publicize these incidents.
The key to solving any difficult crime problem is engaging as many stakeholders as possible in developing and implementing a solution.