Missing Children Partnership Expands In N.y.c.

Attorney General Spitzer and a coalition of the state’s leading retailers today announced a program to train store employees to respond quickly and effectively to find missing and abducted children.

The "Code Adam" program -- conducted with the New York chapter of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children -- will expand to include hundreds of retail stores throughout the state.

"The partnership we are announcing today with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children promises to go a long way to reduce the incidence of child abduction," said Spitzer. "A missing child is every parent’s worst nightmare. By embarking on this training partnership, we hope to spare parents and families the agony associated with this form of victimization."

Janine Lucas, Executive Director of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children/New York Branch said: "The Code Adam program allows retailers to play an important role in the recovery of missing children. We are so thankful that the state Attorney General’s Office is helping coordinate this training effort and we look forward to our continued partnership."

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, based in Alexandria, VA, was established in 1984 as a public-private partnership to help find missing children.

Also at the event were representatives of the Retail Council of New York State and of major retail companies including JC Penney Co. Inc., Gap, Target Stores, Wal-Mart, Stop & Shop Supermarkets, Hannaford.Brothers Corp., Bon Ton and P & C Markets.

Ted Potrikus, Senior Vice President and Director of Government Relations for the Retail Council of New York State said: "The Retail Council is pleased to stand with Attorney General Spitzer to thank him for his focus on an issue that is so important to retailers of every size, the safety of children in our stores. Today’s announcement underscores the retail industry’s commitment to parents that we want them and their children to feel secure while they are shopping."

Larry Nash, Government and Community Relations Director for Hannaford Brothers Corp. said: "We view Code Adam as an important part of our community service. Fortunately, the occasion to use Code Adam has been very rare. At Hannaford, all of our associates are trained to recognize Code Adam and to react immediately."

Kelly O’Connor, spokeswoman for Stop & Shop Supermarkets said: "Stop & Shop is proud to be a part of Attorney General Spitzer’s efforts to keep kids safe."

The "Code Adam" program trains store personnel in strategies to prevent child abductions and how to respond in cases of suspected child abductions to help ensure the safe recovery of children. "Code Adam" is named for Adam Walsh, a six-year old whose 1981 abduction from a Florida shopping mall and subsequent murder helped raise awareness about child abductions.

In the United States, some 4,600 children are abducted each year, 300 of whom are abducted by strangers. Typically, about 100 of the children abducted by strangers are murdered, the vast majority within three hours of being abducted.

Most child abductions are committed by family members or family acquaintances.

In 2001, the New York State Missing Children Register received over 22,000 reports of missing children. Law enforcement intervention resulted in the safe return of children in about 25 percent of the cases. Eight of the missing children were murdered.

In Monroe County, in 2001, there were 1,149 cases of missing children reported to the police.

A swift and effective response is critical for the safe recovery of an abducted child. The victim has an estimated three-hour life expectancy and there is typically a two-hour delay before the police are notified that a child is missing.

When a customer reports a missing child to a store employee, a "Code Adam" alert is broadcast over the store’s public address system. A description of the child is obtained and provided to all specially trained employees who immediately search for the child in their assigned areas and monitor exits to prevent the child from leaving the store. If the child is not found within minutes of a store-wide and parking lot search, or if the child is seen accompanied by someone other than a parent or guardian, a trained store employee contacts the local police department and requests help.

By undergoing a three-hour "Code Adam" training program, store personnel learn how to swiftly take appropriate action when a missing child is reported to them.

"Code Adam" training has helped foil numerous child abductions in stores in Indiana, Mississippi, New Jersey and other states.

Since the creation of "Code Adam" in 1994, the program has been credited with being a successful preventative tool against child abduction in more than 22,000 stores across the county, including Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Home Depot, Gap, Toys "R" Us, Hannaford Brothers Corp., Shop & Save Supermarkets, Shop Rite Supermarkets, Old Navy, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Burlington Coat Factory outlets.

Spitzer’s involvement in the Code Adam program grows out of his continuing role as an advocate for crime victims. In 1999, the Attorney General broadened the scope of the office’s Crime Victims Advisory Board, which advises on programs, policies and legislation dealing with victims rights. The Attorney General’s Office has a designated official, Mindy Bockstein, who specializes in issues of special concern to crime victims. The office also organizes an annual Neighborhood Watch Conference which teaches local crime fighting strategies and attracts hundreds of organizations from across the state.

Retailers and other businesses interested in participating in or learning more about the Code Adam training, should contact Mindy Bockstein, the Attorney General’s Crime Victim Advocate, at 212-416-8839. The instruction and resource materials are available free of charge as a public service.

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