Tacoma police are the first in the state to have a federally certified Child Abduction Response Team.
The department formed the team in 2008 to improve the chances of finding missing children. In September, police put on a mock kidnapping and underwent an extensive review process, proving to the U.S. Department of Justice that the team meets 47 required standards.
One of the assessors who reviewed Tacoma’s team said it was one of the best in the United States.
The CART team was certified Dec. 20, making it the 20th agency nationwide to obtain it. There are 104 CART teams around the country.
Detective Lindsey Wade, who helped form the team, said its members are honored to be the first in the state.
“It’s a benefit to the citizens of Tacoma because we have this team that has prior training and experience,” Wade said. “If and when it happens again, we’ll be ready to act.”
Police said there’s a clear need in the city for a CART team because 16 children have been abducted in Tacoma since 1961. Half of the cases remain unsolved.
The team has been activated four times. The first was for two boys who ran away, and the second was for a mentally disabled teenage girl who walked away from a bowling alley with a sex offender. An abducted baby prompted the third activation, and the most recent occurrence was for a young boy who wandered away from a community center.
Tacoma’s CART team has 31 members from 12 agencies, including the Pierce County Department of Emergency Management, the Child Advocacy Center, Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office, Child Protective Services, state Department of Corrections and FBI.
It is broken down into six smaller teams to handle all aspects of a criminal investigation. The team coordinates search efforts, sets up a tip line and fields phone calls, processes evidence, interviews witnesses and family members, talks to registered sex offenders in the area and coordinates with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.