It’s only appropriate that one of the cases that helped launch National Missing Children’s Day may be coming to a resolution after 33 years almost to the day. New York City Police announced Thursday that they arrested a New Jersey man who allegedly confessed to the murder of Etan Patz.
The 6-year-old boy vanished on May 25, 1979, from Soho, after his parents allowed him to walk from his home to a nearby bus stop.
Watch the Atlanta Child Murders case here:
Patz’ case; the Atlanta child killings, where 29 bodies of Black children were discovered by the time a suspect was arrested; and the case of Adam Walsh, who disappeared from a Florida mall, brought attention to the flaws regarding law enforcement’s response to missing children, including the lack of coordination between agencies.
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Three decades after President Ronald Reagan signed national Missing Children’s Day into law, African-American children make up a large proportion of the children who go missing. According to the National Center For Missing & Exploited Children and the Department of Justice, African Americans make up 42 percent of the children reported missing each year and minorities make up 65 percent of the non-family abductions.
That’s why the Black and Missing Foundation and their spokeswoman, Jacque Reid, have been working to educate all parents, but specifically African-American parents, about ways to keep their children safe.
“The whole idea is how to educate parents to help keep their kids safe. In the spring and summer, the number of missing kids goes up tremendously. You have to be more alert with your kids,” said Reid, a host of NBC 4’s New York Live as well as a member of the nationally syndicated Tom Joyner Morning Show.
“We want to remind the community as a whole to be aware. It’s really up to us to make sure we raise the awareness,” said Reid.
Derrica Wilson and Natalie Wilson, founders of Black and Missing Foundation, say there are simple steps that parents can take to help save their child’s life in case of an emergency.
Many parents take simple things for granted such as teaching your child his home address and telephone number, teaching kids the safe spots in their neighborhood to run if they are in trouble, and teaching kids to scream at the top of their lungs if someone tries to abduct them.
The man who abducted Patz said he lured him away with the promise of a can of soda, according to news reports. We have to teach our children not to fall for those common tricks, such as needing help find a lost puppy.
“Be more careful of the time your child spends alone, have a recent photo of your child, have their fingerprints on file,” said Reid.
“Take notice of what your child has on before they leave the house. Teen girls are being abducted in record numbers, so don’t be afraid to monitor their social media. It may see like an invasion of privacy, but I’d rather have my child be upset with me than go missing,” said Reid.
If parents aren’t comfortable turning over their child’s DNA to an agency, Derrica Wilson said you can take your child’s old toothbrush, dry it out, store it in a ziplock bag and place it in the freezer.
In the event your loved one goes missing, you have DNA to turn over to law enforcement immediately,” she said.
Reid said parents need to be prepared in advance. It’s important to know who your child’s friends are, as well as their parents. Have updated contact information on all of your child’s friends.
“When something happens, they may have critical information because kids talk to one another,” said Reid.
Watching your child on the computer is incredibly critical these days. There have been a number of sex-trafficking cases where young girls have been brainwashed and recruited over the Internet.
“Teenagers are fearless when they are on the computer. Little does that 11-year-old know that they could be chatting with a 44-year-old pretending to be their age,” said Natalie Wilson. “The computer is the No. 1 way for people to enter your home without coming through your back door. A lot of sex trafficking is being done online these days.”
One of the biggest mistakes is that parents don’t know the local laws regarding missing persons. The false belief that you have to wait 24 hours to report a child missing is one of the biggest myths that the Black and Missing Foundation is trying to destroy. If you think your child is endangered, it is imperative that police begin their efforts immediately.
The bottom line, said Reid, is that awareness and knowledge is the biggest tool parents have in keeping their kid safe.
“The truth is that regular life gets in the way. We are trying to keep food on the table and money in the bank,” said Reid. “But you have to talk to your child. Do not live in fear, but scare them straight. Anything can happen to them and they have to be prepared.”