Cass forms child rescue teamPublished 1:30pm Friday, March 8, 2013
CASSOPOLIS — In the works since September, Cass County’s CART training — Child Abduction Response Team — is ready to roll with formation of a Missing Child Response Team (MCRT).
A law enforcement coalition that includes Sheriff Joseph M. Underwood Jr., Dowagiac Public Safety Director Tom Atkinson and Deputy Police Chief Steve Grinnewald brought the Board of Commissioners up to speed Thursday night on plans for a team that includes a bloodhound, Nellie.
Time is of the essence. Seventy-four percent are murdered within three hours of an abduction, 91 percent within 24 hours.
“That tells us we have to be ready when this happens,” Capt. Lyndon Parrish said. “It’s very important we come up with some guidelines on what we do when we have a missing child,” such as 10 years ago when Lindsey Ryan disappeared with Terry Drake.
After 24 days with the convicted murderer, she was rescued in California.
“A coordinated effort is our best chance of safely returning a child back home,” Parrish said.
Parrish said no one agency has all of the necessary resources needed to conduct a child abduction investigation quickly.
Most law enforcement agencies have never conducted an abducted child investigation.
Cass County officials sent members of their staff to Amber Alert training in Louisville, Ky., last fall.
CART training was funded by the Department of Justice and assisted in forming the new team.
Team members include the prosecutor’s office, Department of Corrections, Cass County Emergency Management, Dowagiac Fire Department, Pokagon Band Tribal Police Department, Michigan State Police, Department of Human Services, Family Court, Woodlands Behavioral Health and county emergency management and information systems.
“The biggest thing the training made us realize,” Parrish said, “is there is a need for a team in the county. There really is a need for a team in the state, but there is none. Cass County’s local officials work really well together.”
To further coordination, officials focused on MOUs, or memos of understanding, as the first step in developing a protocol.
“First of all, if we have a missing child, we’re going to have people to work on it,” Parrish said. “We’ve been working on this since September, and it was finalized in January. We’re training the team itself, public safety — first responders — and the public, too. When a child is missing, there is not an agency that is not involved.”
Over the past few months the team met regularly at the county Emergency Operations Center to formulate a response plan that incorporates the efforts of public safety personnel, child welfare officials and volunteers towards the goal of being ready and able to help find and return any missing child to their family.
The plan incorporates search, investigation and logistical coordination using all resources available to each team member.
The team notified all law enforcement agencies in the county that, should they request it, it is available to coordinate search and investigation of any abducted or missing children within Cass County.
Training is a key component to the response plan formulated. Team members will work with local emergency response agencies, Cass County Citizen Emergency Response Team (CERT) members and public volunteers in upcoming training exercises.
MCRT will also coordinate child safety presentations.
A private citizen, Tiffany Graves, who has a background as a bloodhound handler in Florida, obtained Nellie.
“There was a not a bloodhound in this area for hundreds of miles,” Graves said. “The need for a bloodhound is that it can follow and identify just that person by an article of clothing or toothbrush. (Nellie) is through the Jimmy Ryce Foundation for victims of predatory abductions. Jimmy was a 9-year-old abducted, sodomized and murdered trying to escape in Florida in 1995. Her tracking has already started. It will take eight months to a year. As she progresses, I’d love to do a demonstration for you guys to show you what she can do.”