Fort Morgan Police Chief Keith Kuretich
In light of multiple recent events concerning child abductions and attempts in Colorado, Fort Morgan Police Chief Keith Kuretich wants local residents -- both adults and children -- to know they can and should report to police any suspicious activity that they observe.
That suspicious activity can include vehicles lurking or circling in neighborhoods or near schools, adults following kids or teens and anything else that seems out of place or wrong to the observer.
This request from the chief comes after multiple reports recently of attempted child abductions in the Denver metro area, around Colorado and in Wyoming, including one Sunday night in Aurora, which law enforcement there said likely was unrelated to other abduction attempts.
Also, the recent disappearance of 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway, from Westminster, and then the subsequent identification of her body last Friday near Arvada, tugs on many local hearts and minds, including law enforcement officials and residents.
After much searching by law enforcement and volunteers, that case ended in a mixture of tragedy and only a slight measure of closure for her family and everyone who followed the case since her disappearance. Law enforcement officials continue searching for her killer and pursuing leads, according to official statements.
And in Fort Morgan, police were investigating reports of suspicious activity Oct. 12 near Baker Central School, according to Kuretich.
The chief told the Fort Morgan City Council and residents watching the council meeting on public access cable about the reports from Baker students about a red minivan driven by a middle-aged Hispanic male, possibly with a tattoo on his arm, that had been seen near the school and around town multiple times, and at least once with a student running away from it.
While the students were not able to give more specific information about the driver of the minivan or whether any attempts at abduction were made, the police were investigating the report, Kuretich said.
"It's really important that these kinds of suspicious activities are reported, and we certainly applaud the students for doing just that," Kuretich said. "When they saw someone acting suspiciously, they informed an adult, notified a school official, as well as the police."
Act fast
While not all such reports end in arrests or even police contacts with potential suspects, every report of such suspicious activity is taken seriously and investigated, he said.
"Acting quickly is critical," the chief said.
The reason for this can be found in the stark statistics that Kuretich shared with the Fort Morgan City Council last week:
Every 40 seconds, a child becomes missing or is abducted somewhere in the United States.
In 2001, 840,279 people, both adults and children, were reported missing to the FBI's National Crime Information Center.
"The first step in protecting your child from potential abductors is to know what you're dealing with," the chief said.
Out of all of those missing people, 85 to 90 percent likely were children, according to information from the FBI that Kuretich shared.
However, the FBI also reported that most of these cases were resolved within hours, he said.
Still, he said it's important for people to know that reporting things that seem suspicious to police can help.
Fort Morgan police can be contacted through the department's administration line, 970-542-3930, to make reports, or people can call 911.
Kuretich and City Manager Jeff Wells stressed that people would not get in trouble for calling 911 to report suspicious activity to police.
"If somebody sees something in their neighborhood that is suspicious, call 911," Wells said.
And Kuretich urged people calling to make such reports to "try to get as much detail as possible" to give to police, and to "call as soon as possible."
Missing local teen
One disappearance from Fort Morgan is still a mystery after seven months of investigation, according to police.
Fort Morgan resident Kayla Chadwick, now 18, remains missing. She was last seen on March 27.
There is an active investigation into her case, and police are still looking for any tips or information the public can provide.
Investigators from multiple law enforcement agencies have followed up on numerous leads across the state and even out of state, according to police. Police have completed numerous interviews and have investigated all tips they have received. And several searches have been conducted around the Fort Morgan area where Kayla was last seen.
Crime Stoppers and private citizens have contributed to a reward fund that totals $7,500 for information that leads to the return of Kayla Chadwick. Information can also be given anonymously by calling Crime Stoppers at 970-542-3411. Tips can also be submitted online by following the Crime Stoppers link on the left side of the home page.
More statistics
Another thing Kuretich said was important for the public to know is that there are three specific types of kidnapping that can lead to disappearance: by a relative, which makes up about 49 percent; by an acquaintance, 27 percent; and by a stranger, 24 percent.
Family kidnapping is committed primarily by parents, involves more female kidnappers, occurs more frequently to children under age 6, equally victimizes juvenile girls and boys, and most often originates in the home.
Acquaintance kidnapping involves a comparatively high percentage of juvenile perpetrators, has the largest percentage of female and teenage victims, is more often associated with other crimes (especially sexual and physical assault), occurs at homes and residences, and has the highest percentage of injured victims.
Stranger kidnapping victimizes more females than males, occurs primarily outdoors, victimizes both teenagers and school-age children, is often associated with sexual assaults with female victims and robberies with male victims (although not exclusively so), and is the type of kidnapping most likely to involve the use of a firearm.
Other national statistics that Kuretich shared included:
Only about one out of each 10,000 missing children reported to the local police is not found alive. However, about 20 percent of the children reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in nonfamily abductions are not found alive.
In 80 percent of abductions by strangers, the first contact between the child and the abductor occurs within a quarter mile of the child's home.
Most potential abductors grab their victims on the street or try to lure them into their vehicles.
About 74 percent of the victims of nonfamily child abduction are girls.
And acting quickly is critical. Seventy-four percent of abducted children who are ultimately murdered are dead within three hours of the abduction.
The Fort Morgan Police Department also offers tips for keeping children safe.
--Contact Jenni Grubbs at