Authorities visited the home of Phillip Garrido at least 60 times and still somehow missed the hidden compound housing Jaycee Dugard and her two daughters. There were even reports that neighbors and residents alerted authorities to sightings of Dugard and the fact that children were living in tents in the convicted sex offender’s backyard. It would be the unsettling feeling experienced by two campus police officers on the University of California, Berkeley that led to the end of Dugard’s 18 years in captivity, freeing her and her daughters from Nancy and Phillip Garrido.
Nancy McBride, National Safety Director for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said that there are several things you can look for to help a missing or exploited child.
“If a child is going to be harmed, it [usually] happens in the first three hours…if you see somebody who doesn’t appear to belong or somebody who is not acting the way they should be, or somebody that keeps cruising in a car, then you need to let somebody know. Let law enforcement know,” McBride said.
There are also tips you can follow to help protect your own child, McBride said.
How to Report Suspicious Behavior or a Sighting of a Missing Child
1. Call Local Law Enforcement: If you see something suspicious, always call local law enforcement.
2. National Center for Missing and Exploited Children: This is the national clearinghouse for missing and exploited children. You can call them at 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678). The web site for this organization allows you to report a sighting of a missing child and also has a cyber tip line. It also has links to current Amber Alerts. They also have a family advocacy branch that helps families whose child has been abducted or exploited.
3. Each state has their own child protection hotline number, but you can also call the non-profit Childhelp’s National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453).
4. FBI’s Endangered Child Alert Program: The FBI regularly posts the pictures of suspects in the abduction or sexual exploitation of a child.
5. Amber Alerts: For more information on current Amber Alerts, click here.
How to Keep Your Child Safe
1. Sex Offender Registry: McBride said that parents should research and know who their kids are interacting with. One way to do this is to see if any sex offenders are living in your neighborhood. There is a national sex offender registry as well as individual registries per state. “If you…