On the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation website, there is a page with pictures and information of some 49 missing Oklahoma children. Some have been missing for a couple of years, while others have been gone for more than 25 years. Looking through the photos and names, you may recall when some of these cases were in the news. I imagine that for the families involved, their child is the first thing they think of in the morning and the last thing they think of at night. I’m sure the day they learned their child was missing was the worst day in their life.
The odds that a child will be abducted are very low, but we know it does happen. That’s why it is so important to be prepared. There are things parents, grandparents and guardians can do to reduce the likelihood of a child being abducted. Children should not be allowed to go places alone. They should be with a trusted adult if their parents can’t be there. Older children need to practice the buddy system and make sure if they go somewhere, they have a friend with them. Parents also need to know where their children are and who they are with—always. They also need to be taught to run away from danger. If someone tries to grab them or won’t leave them alone, they need to yell out loud that the person bothering them is not their parent—they should be taught to kick, scream and do everything possible to get away. Children should also be taught that if a car or truck starts to follow them, they should run away in the other direction to you or another trusted adult.
Parents should also talk openly with children about safety, and adults need to know not only who their children’s friends are, but their friends’ parents as well. Parents should also make sure they, as well as their children, secure personal information—especially online. Any suspicious people should be reported to the police right away—especially if someone is stalking you or your children.
It is also important to be proactive. Parents and guardians should have good, up-to-date photos of their children, along with dental X-rays. Should the unthinkable happen, it is very important for police to be able to have an accurate description of the missing child, including hair and eye color, current weight and height. It’s also extremely helpful to have a DNA sample, such as hair, a tooth the child has lost, or even a bandage from a scraped knee or cut. These DNA samples can be kept in a baggie in the freezer and should be labeled with the child’s name and the date.
After carefully searching your home, call your local police or sheriff immediately. In addition to the child’s name, date of birth, height, weight and other information, such as whether they have glasses or braces, they’ll need to know when you noticed the child was missing and what they were wearing when last seen. You should also request that your child’s name and identifying information be entered into the National Crime Information Center Missing Person File. You should also report the missing child to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST.
As always, I welcome your comments on state government. Please feel free to contact me by writing to Senator Charles Wyrick at the State Capitol, Room 530, Oklahoma City, OK, 73105; call me at (405) 521-5561.