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Missing Children Success Stories

Walmart® poster leads to safe recovery of critically missing California teen

In December 2011, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® received a report that a 17-year-old girl had gone missing from a group foster home.

The teen, who had previously been listed as missing with NCMEC and law enforcement, was originally located by authorities attempting to enter the United States from Mexico at an international border crossing. After discovering the teen was once again missing, law enforcement immediately suspected the teen had returned to Mexico where it was believed she was a victim of child sex trafficking.

NCMEC coordinated resources with the child’s social worker and California law enforcement department. A key resource included the creation and distribution of the child’s poster in both English and Spanish in and around specific areas of California and Mexico.

In June 2012, NCMEC received a lead from a caller in Phoenix, Ariz., who recognized the child from a NCMEC poster featured at the local Walmart store. The caller previously had seen the child while visiting a small resort town in Mexico about an hour south of California and had concerns the child could be a victim of child sex trafficking.

After receiving this tip NCMEC’s Child Sex Trafficking Team alerted the Department of Homeland Security, and DHS agents stationed near Mexico were notified of the case. One week later NCMEC received confirmation the child had been safely located and recovered by Mexican officials in Baja California, thanks to the lead that came in through NCMEC’s 24-hour Call Center.

International child abduction thwarted at New York airport

In June 2012, NCMEC was contacted by a concerned parent who believed their ex-spouse was attempting to leave the country with the couple’s two children. The couple shared custody of the children and court orders prohibited the removal of the children from their state of residence without consent of both parents.

The concerned parent became suspicious of a possible abduction because the children had been previously abduction by the other parent and taken outside the United States and the other parent had indicated they planned to travel out of town with the children in the next few weeks. These suspicions led the concerned parent to check the family’s computer where airline information indicated tickets had been purchased for a flight that evening from New York to Amman, Jordan.

Only a few hours before the scheduled international flight a NCMEC case manager was able to begin coordinating resources and contacted the FBI’s field office in New York City.

The FBI mobilized resources and went to the airport. The FBI and airport police located the children minutes before the flight was scheduled to depart, within two hours of receiving the case. The children and taking parent were safely escorted off the plane.

California law enforcement recover missing boy in Mexico

In June 2005 a one-year-old baby was abducted from his home in California, by his father. The mother originally thought the father was just taking their son to the park, but she would not see her child again for seven agonizing years.

After two years of searching, and with growing concern the child was in Mexico, investigators asked for help from NCMEC.

NCMEC’s Forensic Imaging Unit age-progressed a photo of the boy to show what he might look like at 3 years of age. Posters with that image were distributed around the country. Public databases donated to NCMEC were searched for clues. NCMEC’s federal liaisons, including the U.S. Department of State, partnered to help with the case but four more years went by.

Then in October 2011, NCMEC received a phone call with a lead that the father was working in New Jersey under a possible alias. NCMEC immediately forwarded this lead to law enforcement investigators, who then worked with New Jersey State Police to provide criminal warrant information.

The next day the child’s father was located and arrested for kidnapping; however, the boy was not with him.

After a lengthy extradition process, delayed by the father’s claims and use of an alias, the father arrived in California in January 2012. Soon after he agreed to coordinate the return of his son who was with relatives in Mexico. In March 2012 law enforcement investigators and officials with the California Foreign Prosecution Unit accompanied the child’s mother to Mexico where she was reunited with her now 8-year-old son.

North Carolina detectives, FBI stop abduction of child to Mexico

In March 2012, a 2-year-old girl from North Carolina was reported missing after the child’s noncustodial mother failed to return the child following a scheduled visit. Law enforcement believed the mother may have been trying to flee the country with the child. NCMEC was called for assistance.

NCMEC staff members quickly disseminated a poster of the missing child and mother. Records led the investigating law enforcement agency to believe the mother had left the state and was possibly en route to Mexico. The FBI was notified and agents took copies of the missing child poster to the local bus depot to interview staff.

Investigators confirmed the mother had purchased a ticket and was traveling on a bus scheduled to stop in Houston for 20 minutes before continuing to Mexico. The FBI arrived at the bus station and showed staff the missing child’s poster. The mother and child were immediately recognized and were currently waiting on the bus platform. The child was safely recovered and mother arrested.

Walmart® employee helps law enforcement find missing 14-year-old Arkansas girl

In March 2012, NCMEC was notified that a 14-year-old Arkansas girl had been missing for two days. Law enforcement believed the teenager may have fled to California with her 19-year-old boyfriend or be en route to Canada.

NCMEC’s case management team sprang into action working with the Bella Vista Police Department and girl’s family to create a poster with her photo and physical description. NCMEC quickly distributed the poster to a variety of NCMEC corporate poster partners including Walmart.

The same day a poster was distributed, a Walmart employee in Washington state became suspicious of a young girl who had been using the store’s restroom to bathe herself over the last two days. Staff talked to the teen indicated she was from Arkansas and traveling with her older brother.

Skeptical of the girl’s explanation an employee checked the NCMEC website. Walmart staff were familiar with NCMEC and the company’s long term partnership to assist in the recovery of missing children. An employee quickly recognized the girl from a missing child poster on NCMEC’s website and called both NCMEC’s 24-hour Call Center and local law enforcement.

Officers with the Washington Police Department were dispatched to the store and took the child into protective custody. The missing child and was reunited with her family shortly afterward.

Special thanks to NCMEC’s partner, Walmart, and their employees for their continued commitment and support in locating missing children.

NCMEC poster helps agency find missing Massachusetts teen

In January 2012, NCMEC received a report of a missing 16-year-old girl who had run away from her school two days prior with her 24-year-old boyfriend.

NCMEC’s case management team immediately made contact with the child’s legal guardian and the law enforcement agency searching for the missing teen. A NCMEC poster was created and distributed around the New York City area where the teen was thought to have traveled.

On February 1 law enforcement received a lead from someone who believed they had seen and spoken to the missing teen recently. Based on the conversation with the teen, the caller was concerned the teen could be a missing child, searched NCMEC’s website, found the teen’s poster, and contacted the Massachusetts State Police.

The investigator coordinated efforts with New York law enforcement who safely took the missing teen into protective custody. The teen was returned to Massachusetts and reunited with her family.

Critically missing 12-year-old Illinois child recovered

In January 2012, NCMEC was contacted by officers with Illinois law enforcement seeking assistance in locating a missing 12-year-old girl. Detectives were concerned for the child’s safety due to her young age and affiliation with local gangs.

The child was last seen a week before, when she left a note indicating she planned to travel “far away.” The child had never run away before and this behavior was unusual.

Upon receipt of the report NCMEC’s case manager immediately made contact with detectives and began coordinating NCMEC resources including a Team Adam deployment. Detectives with the Gang Investigation Unit met with a Team Adam consultant shortly afterwards.

Detectives were pursuing local leads and soon received a lead from a gang with information indicating the child was at a local residence. Officers immediately responded and safely recovered the missing 12-year-old.

Because of the intensity of the search and investigation the officers were able to successfully secure the cooperation of gang members who shared critical information leading to the safe recovery of this child.

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