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Local community and FBI join forces for child abduction training

On March 1, over 50 Pasco County and Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputies swarmed the Meadow Pointe III community, searching door-to-door for a missing child. Fortunately, this was just a drill – the first of its kind in the Tampa Bay area. The training, a mock child abduction, was part of a nationwide effort to train local sheriff and police teams on how to respond to a report of a missing child.

The training, organized by the FBI Child Abduction Rapid Deployment team and Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, prepared law enforcement with the skills and investigative techniques to successfully respond to a child abduction. The joint classroom-field exercise was four days: three of classroom training and one for a neighborhood practical exercise.

Meadow Pointe III, a Rizzetta client, was selected for the field exercise, and community participation was critical to the training’s success.

The role-playing scenario started at 10 a.m. when the local sheriff’s department received a “call” from parents reporting that their child was missing. It was up to the deputies to use their knowledge from the three days of training to find the child. Deputies began by scouring the neighborhood for clues, knocking on doors, interviewing bystanders and reviewing community surveillance footage.

Community management encouraged residents and surrounding businesses to participate, including giving clues and causing distractions for the sheriffs.

Staged surveillance footage led deputies to their first clue, the child’s abandoned bike, which led to more clues until deputies discovered the child in a van with her “abductor” three hours later.

The CDD board welcomed the exercise into the community since an incident like this can happen in any community. The training was a way for the community to unite to support efforts to investigate these incidents.

Although this exercise is organized is select locations around the country, there are steps communities can take to be more prepared for a child abduction situation like this. Communities can work with the local sheriff’s department, or their Rizzetta property manager, to organize smaller training sessions in their area.

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