Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Understanding Child Abduction and Response:

By DEB NICKLAY For The
Press-News

Derek VanLuchene delivered chilling facts about child abductions to North Iowa law enforcement and emergency personnel on Wednesday.

While the number of sex offenders who abduct and kill children is low, those offenders "are the worst of the worst" who need to be feared and understood - and communities need to be ready with swift response to search for those kids when they are reported missing.

According to an exhaustive study done in the state of Washington and with the U.S. Department of Justice, 44 percent of children will be dead in the first hour after abduction; 74 percent are killed within three hours.

Only 1 percent survives one day. Forty percent die before anyone reported them missing.

VanLuchene, a former Division of Criminal Investigation agent and a police officer, is today head of Ryan United based in Helena, Mont., a non-profit agency committed to helping communities safeguard their children against predators. VanLuchene provides seminars and trainings for agencies across the country.

He has first-hand knowledge of the devastation that comes to a family of a missing child: His brother Ryan was kidnapped, sexually assaulted and murdered in 1987, at the age of 8 years.

"I am driven" by helping others, to honor his brother, he said.

"You do what you can do to make a difference - that keeps me going," he said.

VanLuchene dispelled inaccurate information about sexual offenders. Public perception is often shaped by sensationalistic stories found in the media, he said. Getting a true understanding about offenders is an ongoing search. For instance, information about the number of juveniles who commit sex crimes against children is growing as more becomes known; sexual offenses overall remains at the top of list of crimes that are underreported.

How a community responds can make the difference between life and death for the child.

Frontline personnel - dispatchers - are among the most important people who have to act quickly, ask the right questions, formulate a description, and contact the proper people who must quickly organize a search.

Those precious first hours are often eaten up because parents will search for their children first before reporting a disappearance, he said. Getting the right information and game plan of response is vital to a successful recovery of a child, he said. Some communities have organized response teams trained and ready to search for children.

Those people know some key facts already: Most children are abducted within one quarter mile of where they were last seen - important to know, especially if businesses are proactive
and have surveillance video in stores; and most killers do not take children far. Most children are taken within 200 feet from their homes. Over 60 percent of killers live and work in the area in which they abduct children.

Those attending on Wednesday came from across the state. The pool included emergency management coordinators and law enforcement, as well as county supervisors, a retired judge, search and rescue personnel and interested parents.

Chance R. Kness, head of emergency management in Clinton County, has
participated in some trainings, but was interested in the "linkages between issues related to abductions and those with ground searches," he said.

"We want to be fully prepared," he said, with ready resources at hand, to conduct all types of searches.

Lois Hall, a member of the Clinton County Sheriff's Reserve, helps oversee the K-9 search and rescue operations. Understanding child abductions helps her group in preparation as well.

Both enjoyed VanLuchene's vast knowledge of the issue.

Hall said the biggest impact on her was knowing "that this can happen anywhere."

Mitchell County Sheriff Greg Beaver echoed the thought.

"I don't want our area to be an Evansdale; we do not want to be a Dayton," referring to child kidnapping and murders that occurred there.

Ray Huftalin, emergency management director for Mitchell and Worth counties, thought the training was thorough and instructive - but not attended by enough people.

"I wanted to see that auditorium full ...because we know that it's not about if it will happen, it's about when it will happen. This (child abduction) can happen anywhere," he said. He added he would have liked to see more educators in attendance. He said Area Education Agency 267 was represented, which was encouraging.

Huftalin said he will be working with law enforcement to discuss and formulate future response plans.

***

Other facts:

* Most sexual offenders, the majority male, commit their first assault by age 21.

* The majority commit assaults for which they were never charged.

* Fifty percent of sexual offenders suffered sexual or physical abuse as a child.

* Vast majority of those abused as a child grow up to be non-abusive adults.

* The majority is not diagnosed as mentally ill.

* The median age of a sexual abuser is 33 years.

* Assaults are planned; sometimes months in advance.

***Source: Ryan United

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