When a child goes missing

The Gazette Opinion Staff
Published: December 12 2012 | 7:45 am - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 3:16 am in

By The Gazette Editorial Board

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After the bodies of two Evansdale girls missing since July were found last week, a lot of people were asking, understandably: Couldn’t we collectively have done better? Wasn’t there some way the abductor or abductors of Elizabeth Collins and Lyric Cook could have been apprehended well before the young cousins’ lives came to a tragic end?

Such questions haunt many Iowans these days as investigators try to find and follow evidence toward identifying and arresting whoever is responsible. The emotions and desire to do something are riding high.

What to do and how to do it requires an objective approach. If a new law or a new alert system is devised, as some are calling for, be sure it can help find missing kids, not unduly complicate the process.

Already, Gov. Branstad has said that state officials should review what could be done differently.

Some Iowans wonder if the existing national Amber Alert system could be expanded beyond its information requirements of a suspect’s or vehicle’s description.

A Cedar Falls legislator, Jeff Danielson, said he’ll propose a “Cousins Law” modeled after Florida’s A Child is Missing system, run by a non-profit group. When requested by police, the non-profit agency swiftly launches hundreds of phone calls with descriptions of missing children to homes and businesses in or near the area of a reported disappearance.

Others suggest somehow incorporating social media into an alert network.

Many of these ideas and others bear consideration. Still, any changes in Iowa’s laws or alert systems should be sure to assist law enforcement officers, not make their job harder. Flaws that surfaced in some of the laws quickly passed in 2005 after the horrific Jetseta Gage case serve as one reminder.

The standard in revising or expanding response policies should be whether it enables the public and police to work together more swiftly and effectively.

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