Collectors Hire Private Investigators to Assist in Asset Recovery

Collectors Hire Private Investigators to Assist in Asset Recovery

When someone owes you money, no one ever said they had to make it easy to collect. Debtors have been developing new ways to dodge their debts for as long as anyone can remember. In turn, collectors across all industries have had to develop methods of collection to prevent people from hiding an asset. One of a collector’s greatest assets in this modern age is an independent private investigator. While collectors deal with the paperwork, private investigators do the legwork, using proven methodology to unearth the hidden assets of debtors in arears.

Private investigators work with some of the same tools and the same methodology as law enforcement when looking for debtor assets. As part of their licensure, private investigators have access to verified databases that allow them to develop comprehensive, cross-referenced background profiles on a Subject in any investigation. Private investigators have diverse experience in analyzing a person’s criminal, financial, address, and litigation history in order to build a contextualized picture of a debtor’s circumstances. Private investigators can unearth unseen assets like property, financial accounts, vehicles, and other valuable assets that have been previously concealed. Human sources are less common in asset searches, but private investigators also have the training to build rapport and garner testimony from relevant human sources in the case.  Private investigators are also highly skilled in obtaining and reviewing litigation records to document a debtor’s history of litigation in a court of law. Pervasive lawsuits, especially involving large judgements, can be a red flag in an asset search investigation.

Social media has become a more valuable resource than ever in many types of investigations. The amount of information people unwittingly give away on social media is staggering. Private investigators can get information about the sale of personal belongings, photos of assets like property and vehicles, and can document the type of lifestyle a debtor is currently enjoying—like lavish vacations or expensive home renovations. Private investigators carefully document their findings to compile into a thorough report for the client as another building block in their case against the debtor in arears.

If you’re a collecting party trying to reap your due, don’t hesitate to reach out to private investigator for a quote on their asset search services. Through open-source intelligence and transparent investigation methods, private investigators can get to the bottom of a debtors hidden assets.

Protecting Your Assets with a Background Check

Protecting Your Assets with a Background Check

Background Check to Protect Your Assets in Marriage
When you’re considering marriage, you should also considering running a background check on your partner to protect your assets.

Even if you didn’t meet your significant other in cyberspace, you could still be at risk for con artists and scammers. That’s why more individuals are turning to private investigators to perform background checks on their potential life mates.

One of the most critical decisions we make in life is who to legally bind ourselves to in matrimony—not only because of the vows we make to each other, but also because the legal union in most states means entitling the other person to half of your assets. There is an unexpected trend of private investigators—especially female private investigators—in countries where arranged marriage is woven into the fabric of culture. Many families seek to control familial relations and extensions for many reasons, like politics, financials, business consolidation, and status. As recently as 2017, arranged marriage accounted for 55% of marriages throughout the globe, leaving traditional marriage in the minority. This creates a niche market for private investigators to properly vet potential spouses in countries like India, China, Pakistan, Japan, and Israel to name a few.

Even though arranged marriage is not a major part of Western culture, that doesn’t mean that engaged individuals in the United States shouldn’t do their due-diligence when it comes to their life mate. When it comes to your assets, you should expect facts, not fiction. That’s why hiring a private investigator to perform a background check on your intended can save a great deal of heartache and financial distress. Even a basic background check from a private investigator can unearth risk factors. Private investigators will pull criminal history, litigation history, credit history, and history of residence to corroborate proposed facts about your romantic partner. It’s true that there are many “people finder” databases on the internet that claim their results are accurate and worth the cost of purchasing the report, and therefore an individual could conduct a background check themselves. However, private investigators must comply with specific security protocol and licensing in order to have access to verified databases on par with certain law enforcement agencies. This means that the quality of data entry comes with a much higher degree of accuracy, and will be updated regularly with regards to both public and private records. “People finder” databases cannot guarantee 100% accuracy, which may lead to additional misinformation, especially with regards to criminal and litigation history.

Private investigators also have years of experience that contextualize available information on a subject. For example, residence history is traditionally part of a basic background check. If the subject has a long history of moving between jurisdictions, or from state-to-state in short periods of time, a private investigator might examine this information—and based on context—determine that the subject has a history of transience, which could indicate a lack of reliability or a flight risk. If a subject’s credit history is consistently poor, that would be a financial red flag that might disqualify a subject as a spouse.

Private investigators bring valuable contexts to background investigations that empower individuals to make critical decisions in their private or corporate life. When two people get married, they often conduct other litmus tests in order to determine long-term cohabitation, such as blood tests for their health, or pre-marital counseling to determine their level of preparation. Background checks are just another measure for you to ensure that your life and your livelihood are protected.

Active Shooter Events in the Workplace

Active Shooter Events in the Workplace

Virginia legislation placed on notice following the active shooter event in Virginia Beach.

Victims of the Virginia Beach shooting.

In what has seemed like a death from a thousand cuts, the mass active shooter event that occurred on Friday, May 28th at a municipal building in Virginia Beach has inspired action on the part of state leadership. According to USA Today, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has ordered a legislative session devoted to exploring the current climate of gun violence in the United states. At a news conference, Northam said, “The nation is watching. We must do more than our thoughts and prayers. We must give Virginians the action they deserve.”

It was a public works employee who killed 12 people last week—another senseless tragedy in a long line of mass shootings that have spiked in recent years. According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, shootings accounted for 79% of all workplace homicides in 2016. Statistics from the Office of Victims of Violent Crime indicate this number has not only risen dramatically but will continue to rise. The number of mass shootings was nearly 2.5 times greater over the last ten years—greater than the mass shootings that occurred between 1998 and 2007.

This infographic displays the number of active shooter events in each state in 2018, per 1 million individuals.

While the governor of Virginia has put the legislation on notice, businesses throughout the nation have put themselves on notice as well, with interest in active shooter training programs for businesses increasing exponentially with each new report of gun violence in the workplace. What’s chilling is OSHA estimates 25% of workplace violence goes unreported.  Yet, many businesses believe events like the ones that transpired in Virginia Beach cannot happen to them.

Many businesses not only believe an active shooter event is unlikely, but that they are, in fact, prepared for one. If you happen to be reading this at your desk, or on a break at your job, do you know the evacuation protocol for your business in the event of an active shooter? Evacuation procedures like these are often explained in personnel materials like handbooks and manuals. But the average employee is not regularly engaged on the topic, let alone received comprehensive education & demonstration of these protocols. It is a morbid, serious subject, and it is not uncommon for management or leadership in a business/organization to be uncomfortable with addressing it, and certainly struggle with addressing it comprehensively.

This downloadable graphic reflects statistical information pertaining to the 220 FBI-designated active shooter incidents that occurred in the United States between 2000-2016. This graphic depicts incidents broken down by location category.

Companies who have decided that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure are investing in contracts with independent investigators to perform risk assessments on their headquarters and locations of business. These investigators consider factors such as the total volume of personnel, layout of the worksite, and security protocol to determine what is needed to keep the employees safe and secure.

These horrific crimes are also placing a heavy financial burden on businesses. Lower & Associates estimates businesses across the United States will lose more than $55 million in employee wages each year due to violence in the workplace. They experience direct losses in the form of medical expenses, workers’ compensation, litigation fees, and indirect losses such as breakdown in operations due to arrested productivity, record-low morale, and public relation nightmares. Not to mention the fact that a business’s preparedness for an active shooter event is literally a matter of life and death.


3 Most Common Types of Corporate Crisis

What is a corporate crisis? While exact definitions may differ, a corporate crisis is generally defined as “an event, situation, or public initiative that threatens the company’s ability to effectively operate its business. A crisis can escalate into a disaster or long-term impediment to business growth if not handled with efficiency and sensitivity to all involved.” This is a large umbrella that encompasses many of the internal issues we associate with companies, including (but not limited to) fraud, theft, misconduct, and harassment of all kinds.

A majority of corporate crises fall into one of three categories: personnel, systemic, and contextual.

A personnel crisis is an internal issue that is a direct result of an individual employee or a group of employees’ bad behavior. Theft by personnel is one of the most widely-reported crises in corporations throughout America. The scope of this problem can be as small as stealing office supplies all the way up to executive embezzlement. Sexual harassment is a type of personnel crisis receiving a welcomed new level of attention in corporations. In the age of the #MeToo movement, corporations are viewing their workforce very differently when it comes to identifying potential predators in their midst in the name of a “pound of cure.” Prudent steps taken when vetting potential hires and current employees has saved companies difficulties down the line, especially in legal fees and public relations.

A systemic crisis refers to a major breakdown in operations negatively impacting business. A common example is food service corporations that receive a sudden influx of food poisoning complaints. Source of the outbreak may be traced back to how the supplier or distributor handled the food product, and suddenly, there’s a systemic crisis: A misstep in operations led to a large sum of incidents. Systemic problems manifest themselves in many forms, including external theft. Repeated theft, both in cyberspace and the real world, is often the result of insufficient security within a company. Consequently, the company incurs loss because they remain vulnerable. Companies who have chronic turnover due to employee misconduct may have flaws in their vetting system for potential employees. That is another example of a crucial operation where a breakdown occurs and erodes a company’s profits with labor hours to hire a new individual to fill a vacant position.

A contextual crisis has exponential consequences for a business relative to its size. These are the types of crises that companies cannot anticipate, because they influence public perception of their brand based on real-life events. A major news story like a mass shooting, or a major criminal case, or a lawsuit, can negatively impact a brand even if that event is not directly associated with that company. These external events can drastically change a company’s internal operations, and can weigh heavy on employees at every level. Sexual harassment is another example of this type of crisis in motion. The media coverage regarding high-level Hollywood executives like Harvey Weinstein and his alleged history of abuse have executives in companies of all shapes and sizes revisiting their human resource policies and practices when it comes to addressing sexual misconduct in the workplace. Internal operations receive a major overhaul to the benefit of a healthier work environment for everyone.

When it comes to corporate crises, not all businesses will be able to afford specialized investigators to work in-house to resolve issues that arise. Even if they can afford these professionals, investigators employed by the company—regardless of the quality of their work—by definition cannot provide a truly objective solution to any problem. Because they’re employed by the corporation, they have a potential stake in the outcome of the investigation, whether that stake be real or perceived. Hiring an independent professional, like a licensed private investigator, to conduct an external investigation is the best way to ensure that the solution is objective. This is particularly important personnel crises, because terminating personnel based on an unbiased investigation is kerosene for a disgruntled employee that can manifest itself with many devastating consequences—most commonly wrongful termination lawsuits. Private investigators can assist in systemic crises as well, like the example of repeated thefts with regards to security. Private investigators who specialize in different kinds of risk assessment can identify a company’s vulnerabilities to thieves and scammers, and provide them with a game plan to improve their security.

If your business has encountered a corporate crisis, call Lauth Investigations International today for a free consultation. Learn how we can provide you with an objective solution to your corporate crisis. Call 317-951-1100, or learn more about our services here.

Closs Case Spurs Parents Concerns

Closs Case Spurs Parents Concerns

After the Recovery of Jayme Closs,

Parents Concerned for Own Children’s Safety

Jayme Closs vanished October 15, 2018 and found alive 88-days later in rural Wisconsin. Photo courtesy WOKV TV.

Jayme Closs vanished October 15, 2018 and found alive 88-days later in rural Wisconsin. Photo courtesy WOKV TV.

The recent disappearance of Jayme Closs, 13, and the brutal murder of her parents, gripped the nation for nearly 3 months. Jayme’s abduction, and eventual recovery, has parents now wondering how safe their own children are when traveling to and from school.

On October 15, 2018, Barron Sheriff’s Department received a cell phone call from a local residence but were unable to make contact with the caller. We now know that urgent call came from Denise Closs, 46, just moments before she was brutally murdered in front of her own daughter and just following the murder of her husband James, 56.

Police arrived within minutes of the 911 call made from the home.

When police arrived at the Closs home, outside of Barron, WI, they found both parents deceased from gunshot wounds.  Jayme was missing.

For months, law enforcement conducted searches looking for the missing 13-year old, puzzled as to why the perpetrator had murdered both of Jayme’s parents in the home, but not Jayme.

According to Jack Levin, professor and co-director of Northeastern University’s Center on Violence and Conflict, it’s unusual for a double murder to be linked to a missing child case. “You almost never see this,” Levin said.

The Closs home sits along Highway 8, a two-lane highway outside of Barron, surrounded by woods. The highway is the main road through the city and then extends to surrounding areas.

Day, weeks, and months went by with no sign of Jayme, then 88 days after her disappearance Jayme made her escape.

Former Attorney General and Judge Brad Schimel, who led the Wisconsin Department of Justice investigation of the Closs case, says investigators always had reason to believe Jayme was alive.

After her recovery, Jayme told police she could hear sirens seconds after being bound, gagged and kidnapped from her home. We find out now, the suspect, Jake Patterson, 21, even yielded to sheriff deputies when they were speeding to the Closs home. While Police Responded to the crime scene, Patterson made an 80-mile drive back to his home in Gordon, with Jayme in the trunk of his vehicle.

Immediately, Barron County Sheriff called in the Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation for help. “Within a matter of a couple hours, we can have 40 to 50 agents at the scene of a major investigation,” said Judge Brad Schimel.

CBS 58 Investigates sat down with Judge Schimel, who left office only four days before Jayme was found. “At what point did you stop thinking she might have been killed that night too?” CBS 58 Investigates asked Judge Schimel. “Well, when she didn’t turn up somewhere in a matter of couple days, then we had great hope,” Judge Schimel replied. He added after two people are so brutally murdered, taking the teen alive would be a liability and only made sense if the perpetrator intended on keeping her.

In addition, with hunting season and thousands of Wisconsin residents in the woods hunting, they had even more hope when there were no discoveries of bodies in the woods.

“We believed someone was holding her, which is not good,” said Judge Schimel. We knew that meant this was a very difficult life for her but being alive is a very good thing.”

According to a criminal complaint filed by investigators, Jayme’s kidnapper decided to abduct her after watching her get on a school bus. He was planning on hiding her at a remote cabin until she escaped on January 12, 2018.

Remote cabin where kidnapper Jake Patterson held Jayme Closs for 88 days. Photo courtesy Fox 11 News.

Remote cabin where kidnapper Jake Patterson held Jayme Closs for 88 days. Photo courtesy Fox 11 News.

“At that moment,” he said, “he knew that was the girl he was going to take,” the complaint said.

Patterson went to Jayme’s house two times in the days before abducting her.

On the evening Jayme was abducted, Jayme told police, she was sleeping in her room when the family dog began barking. She woke her parents when she saw a car coming up the driveway.

According to the complaint, Jayme and her mother, Denise, hid in the bathroom. They both heard a gunshot, and she knew her father, James, had been killed.

Denise began calling 911 but Patterson broke down the bathroom door, told her to hang up and directed her to tape Jayme’s mouth shut. When Denise complied, Patterson shot her. Following, Patterson taped Jayme’s hands and ankles and dragged her out to his car, throwing her in the trunk and driving away as sirens began to sound, the complaint said.

Patterson had shaved his face and head as well as showered prior to the attack in an attempt to minimize DNA evidence. He dressed in all black. He took his license plates off his car and put stolen plates on while disconnecting the dome and trunk lights.

He took her to a cabin he claims was his, ordered her into a bedroom and told to take her clothes off, the complaint goes on to say.

He put her clothes in a bag and talked about having no evidence. Whenever he had friends over, he made clear that no one could know she was there or “bad things could happen to her,” so she had to hide under the bed.

He would stack totes, laundry bins and barbell weights around her so she could not move without him noticing. The complaint says Jayme was kept up to 12 hours at a time with no food, water or bathroom breaks.

Jayme escaped after Patterson made her go under the bed and told her he would be gone for five or six hours. Once gone, she pushed the bins away, crawled out, put on a pair of Patterson’s shoes and fled the house.

Barron County Sheriff holds picture of Jake Patterson, arrested for the kidnapping of Jayme Closs. Photo courtesy Mercury News.

Barron County Sheriff holds picture of Jake Patterson, arrested for the kidnapping of Jayme Closs. Photo courtesy Mercury News.

Once found, Jayme described Patterson’s vehicle to police, and he was apprehended within 10 minutes of her escape being reported.

What Jayme went through while held, we may never know exactly, as the Douglas County District Attorney Mark Fruehauf said he does not anticipate filing charges against Patterson for crimes committed during her time in captivity.

“A prosecutor’s decision whether to file criminal charges involves the consideration of multiple factors, including the existence of other charges and victim-related concerns.”

Patterson faces two counts of intentional homicide, each carrying a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of release. Patterson will be back in court Feb 6, for a preliminary hearing.

Estimates of Missing Children Abducted by Strangers

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) estimates approximately 100 children are abducted by strangers every year. Referred to as a “stereotypical kidnapping,” the United States Department of Justice defines this type of kidnapping as 1) the victim is under the age of 18-years old, 2) the kidnapper is either a stranger or “slight acquaintance,” 3) the abduction involves moving the victim at least 20 feet or detaining them for at least one hour, and 4) the victim is either held for ransom, transported at least 50 miles, detained overnight, held with an intent to keep permanently, or killed.

While this may seem like a relatively low number of children abducted by strangers, it still amounts to thousands of children who, over the years, have been entered into the FBI National Crime Information Center (NCIC), and never been found.

In fact, during the months of January 2018 and May 2018, there were 3,468 children entered into NCIC as Involuntary. This missing person category includes cases of children who police have determined were taken involuntarily, but not enough evidence to make a determination if they were taken by strangers. *Source FBI NCIC Report

According to the FBI NCIC Report for May 31, 2018, there were 14,714 active missing child cases in the United States. Some of these cases date back 30 years and remain active because the missing child has never been found.

The Closs case may be unique in many respects but is not alone.

The Disappearance of Jaycee Dugard

It was June 10, 1991, in the peaceful town of Meyers, California, an unincorporated community in El Dorado County. Meyers sits along Route 50 in the northern Sierra Nevada mountains just 6 miles south of Lake Tahoe.

Jaycee Dugard vanished from her northern California bus stop on June 10, 1991 and found alive 18 years later. Photo courtesy of NMCO

Jaycee Dugard vanished from her northern California bus stop on June 10, 1991 and found alive 18 years later. Photo courtesy of NMCO

Jaycee Dugard, 11, sporting pink tights and a white shirt with a printed “kitty cat” on the front, was walking from her home to a school bus stop when she was abducted.

As her stepfather, Carl Probyn, watched Jaycee walk up the hill to the bus stop something horrifying happened. Suddenly, a gray car stopped next to Jaycee. Through the window, Probyn saw an unidentified man roll down his car window and begin speaking to his stepdaughter.

Suddenly, Jaycee fell to the ground while a woman jumped out of the car and carried the fifth-grader into the car.

Probyn would tell police he had witnessed Jaycee’s kidnapping and actually gave chase with his mountain bike. Searches began immediately after Jaycee’s disappearance but generated no reliable leads despite the abduction being witnessed by a family member and the vehicle being described as a Mercury Monarch.

El Dorado Sheriff’s deputies, along with California Highway Patrol search for Jaycee after she was abducted by strangers while walking to her school bus stop in 1991. Photo courtesy CBS News.

El Dorado Sheriff’s deputies, along with California Highway Patrol search for Jaycee after she was abducted by strangers while walking to her school bus stop in 1991. Photo courtesy CBS News.

Years passed, but Jaycee’s family never gave up hope they would find her, passing out tens of thousands of fliers and extensive national news coverage. The town of Meyers was even covered in pink ribbons to honor Jaycee’s favorite color.

In August 2009, convicted sex offender Philip Garrido, visited the Berkeley Campus at the University of California, accompanied by two young children. He was there to lobby for permission to lead a special event at the campus as part of his “God’s Desire Church” program. His unusual behavior at the meeting sparked an investigation that led Garrido’s parole officer to order him to take the two young girls to a parole office in Concord, Calif., on August 26, 2009. It was later ordered Garrido’s house be searched by police.

Area behind kidnapper Philip Garrido’s home where missing child Jaycee Dugard was found 18 years after her disappearance. Photo courtesy NY Daily News.

Area behind kidnapper Philip Garrido’s home where missing child Jaycee Dugard was found 18 years after her disappearance. Photo courtesy NY Daily News.

Police searched Garrido’s home in Antioch, Calif., near Oakland, approximately 3 hours southwest of Meyers, where Jaycee had vanished from 18 years earlier.

 

That incident led to the discovery of Jaycee who had been kidnapped by Garrido and his wife Nancy Garrido in 1991. For 18 years, Jaycee, age 29 when found, had been kept in concealed tents, a shed, and lean-tos, in an area behind the Garrido’s house in Antioch, Calif.  

Garrido, a sociopath, and pedophile had kidnapped and raped a woman named Katherine Callaway Hall in 1976. He had also abducted Katherine from South Salt Lake Tahoe in a very similar manner to Jaycee’s kidnapping. Garrido was on parole for Katherine’s kidnapping when police stumbled upon Jaycee. She was alive.

In 1991, at Jaycee’s bus stop, Garrido had shocked Jaycee with a stun gun, she remembers feeling a tingling sensation and falling to the ground. Nancy Garrido acted as her husband’s accomplice scouting for young girls for her husband and the one who picked Jaycee up off the ground transporting her to the car on the day they abducted her.

During the 3-hour ride to Garrido’s home, Jaycee remembers falling in and out of consciousness and heard Nancy laughing saying, “I can’t believe we got away with this!” Knowing she was in danger, Jaycee had no way of knowing the hell, life was about to become.

Soundproof shed where missing child Jaycee Dugard was held captive in for 18 years, in Antioch, California. Photo courtesy BBC.

Soundproof shed where missing child Jaycee Dugard was held captive in for 18 years, in Antioch, California. Photo courtesy BBC.

Once they arrived at the Garrido’s home, the pair forced Dugard to strip naked, with the exception of a butterfly ring she was wearing. They then blindfolded Jaycee and placed her in a soundproof shed he had in the backyard where he raped her for the first time, just 11 years old.

For the first week, Jaycee was kept handcuffed in the isolated shed, but things would get much worse.

A few weeks into the ordeal, Garrido brought Jaycee a TV but she was never allowed to watch the news because they did not want her to see the news frenzy surrounding her disappearance. She was only allowed to watch shows of people selling jewelry and found their voices calming, helping her sleep.

Frequently, Garrido would go on 24-hour methamphetamine binges which resulted in rape marathons. He would tell Jaycee dogs were outside the shed to scare her or tell her he was going to place her inside of a cage to keep her fearful of escaping.

While alone, Jaycee kept a journal to deal with her pain and wrote about how she wanted to see her mom. She always ended the note with her name “Jaycee” and a little heart beside. Nancy found the journal and forced Jaycee to tear out all of the pages with her name on them. It was the last time Jaycee was allowed to write or say her own name.

While in captivity Jaycee would give birth to two daughters. The first at age 13 who she named Angel. Jaycee would later explain that once giving birth she never felt alone again.

Jaycee gave birth to her second daughter “Starlit” in 1997.

She now had two daughters to protect.

Even while living in the worst of circumstances Jaycee managed to plant flowers and build a little school outside the shed where she homeschooled her daughters with her fifth-grade education.

For years, the three lived behind the 8-foot fences Garrido had built around his home to keep potential peeping neighbors at bay.

When Garrido had shown up at the campus that fateful day in August 2009 with two little girls, both “submissive and sullen,” Lisa Campbell, the special event s coordinator was concerned and asked him to return the following day. Garrido left his name on a form and left the campus. Campbell then informed an officer who conducted a background check on Garrido and discovered he was a registered sex offender on federal parole for kidnap and rape.

The wheels were now set in motion that would crack the decade’s long-missing child case wide open.

2009, the piece of paper Jaycee Dugard wrote her name on telling police officers who she is. Photo courtesy of NMCO.

2009, the piece of paper Jaycee Dugard wrote her name on telling police officers who she is. Photo courtesy of NMCO.

Over the years, Jaycee had been directed by Garrido to tell people she was the girl’s big sister and to have Jaycee’s daughters refer to himself and Nancy as mom and dad. When questioned by officers, at first, Jaycee told them her name was Alyssa, claiming to be an abused mother from Michigan who had ran from a domestic violence situation to protect her daughters and living with the Garridos. Not buying the story, officers continued talking to her trying to glean more information. Eventually, Jaycee relaxed and would write her name on a piece of paper. Sliding it to police it said, “Jaycee Lee Dugard.”

Officers immediately asked her if she wanted to call her mom which she replied in disbelief, “Can I call my mom?” Jaycee’s first words to her mother in 18 years were “Come quick!”

Garrido pleaded guilty to kidnapping and raping Dugard and sentenced to 431 years to life at Corcoran State Prison and Nancy Garrido was sentenced to 36 years to life.

Jaycee is now the author of A Stolen Life: A Memoir and lives with her two daughters, reveling in her freedom.

While Jaycee Dugard and Jayme Closs were recovered, some children have not been so lucky.

Disappearance of Etan Patz

Etan Patz, 6, walked out of his New York City home in 1979 headed for his school bus stop just two blocks away in 1979 – and he’s never been found.

It was the last day of school before Memorial Day weekend. Etan had asked his parents to let him walk alone the short way to the bus stop for the first time. He carried his book bag and had a dollar to buy a soda at the corner deli on the way.

His parents were not aware of Etan’s disappearance until he had not returned from school. They would later find out the young boy had never made it to school.

Etan Patz vanished May 25, 1979 in NYC on his way to his school bus stop.

Etan Patz vanished May 25, 1979 in NYC on his way to his school bus stop.

Police set up a Command Center at the Patz Manhattan apartment and began conducting ground searches and going door to door, but no solid leads have developed over the years that have led police closer to finding out what happened to him.

His disappearance rocked New York City and to this day haunts the law enforcement officers who have spent decades trying to find him. “Every missing child case is very important, but this was one of the oldest ones we had,” says NYPD Lieutenant Chris Zimmerman.

Etan was the first child placed on a milk carton, hundreds of thousands of fliers blanketed the country and countless new stories, all to no avail.

Etan’s disappearance became more than a missing person’s case but changed the way parents watched over their kids.

With stories like Etan’s and Jaycee, along with the recent disappearance and recovery of Jayme Closs by a predator who targeted her after watching her board a school bus, parents are again wondering what they can do to keep their children safe.

bus

Safety 101 – Walking to and from school

Parents struggle with many things when it comes to the safety and security of their children. One question a parent may ask is how old is old enough to begin walking to and from school or to a bus stop alone.

There has been a huge drop in the number of kids who walk or ride their bike to school regularly. According to the National Center for Safe Routes to School, in 1969, 48% of K-8 grade walked or bicycled to school. By 2009, only 13% do.

While pedestrian injury rates are down since 1995 – mostly due to improvements made to traffic infrastructure, implementing the use of crossing guards and sidewalks, there are no statistics that allow for us to know the dangers of how many children are approached by strangers. How many predators are out there targeting our kids? Though statistically, the chances are relatively minimal your child will ever be abducted by a stranger, it does not lessen our responsibility as parents to protect them and prepare them for anything that “could” happen.

Gavin DeBeckers, author of “The Gift of Fear” and one of the leading experts on predicting and managing violence says there is no magic age when kids can walk or bike to and from school or bus stop.

You and only you can make the final decision on when your child is ready to walk alone. However, you can expect to see other children beginning this walk around age 9 to 11. DeBeckers says it depends upon cognitive skills, the ability to follow directions and reasoning, directing parents to ask themselves the following questions:

  1. Does your child honor his feelings? If someone makes them feel uncomfortable, that’s an important signal your child should react to.
  2. Does your child know when it’s okay to rebuff and/or defy adults?
  3. Does your child know it’s okay to be assertive?
  4. Does your child know it’s okay to ask for help?
  5. Does your child know how to choose who to ask?
  6. Does your child know how to describe his peril?
  7. Does your child know it is okay to strike, even injure, someone if he believes he’s in danger?
  8. Does your child know it’s okay to make noise, scream and run?
  9. Does your child know that is someone tries to force him to go somewhere, what he screams should include, “This is not my father?”
  10. Does your child know if someone tells them not to scream, the thing to do is to scream?
  11. Does your child know to make EVERY effort to resist going anywhere with someone he doesn’t know?

These questions should apply to your children of any age, even older children are vulnerable to abduction. Keeping in mind, Jaycee Dugard was abducted within the view of her parent, it is important to evaluate the route your child will take and choose the safe route between home and the bus stop/ and or school and practice walking it with your child until he demonstrates awareness.

Remind your children to:

  • Stick to well-traveled streets, using the same route every day and always avoid shortcuts.
  • Don’t wear clothes or shoes that restrict movement.
  • Carry backpacks and bags close to their body.
  • Don’t speak to strangers and ALWAYS tell a trusted school official, teacher, store clerk, policeman or another adult if someone has made them feel uncomfortable.
  • Teach them to remember specific things about cars and people.
  • Let them have a cell phone for emergencies (these can also be tracked by installing a simple and free App called Life 360), which is a locator, messaging and communication app. It is better to be safe than sorry.

Having children walk to and from school or a bus stop has its risks as well as benefits. We all know the risks. However, it is an important milestone in your child’s life and with that comes a sense of independence that comes with being permitted to walk alone or with friends to school or the bus stop. A sense of independence that they will carry throughout their lives and hindering that could stunt this important growth spurt of maturity.

Remember, we can provide our children with tools to keep themselves safe but the tools we teach them early on can also get them through the hardest of times in life.

In the case of both Jayme Closs and Jaycee Dugard, they relied on their innermost strength to survive the most horrific of circumstances. As parents, that’s all we can hope for.