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Date of Issue: February 22, 2007

HBPD recruits for missing child program

If a child goes missing in Holmes Beach, 10 local volunteers with the police department are ready to go looking.

Still, additional volunteers are needed, said Detective Sgt. Terri Davis, of the Holmes Beach Police Department.

Last fall, Davis began recruiting residents to help in the event a child goes missing in Holmes Beach. Davis was in the process of writing the department’s master guide for responding to missing or abducted children and key to that plan was creating a roster of community volunteers.

The volunteers are part of the Child Abduction Response Team. CARTs were created in the wake of the kidnapping and murder of Carlie Brucia in Sarasota on Feb. 1, 2004. Videotape captured the abduction and led to a widespread search for the kidnapper and the child. Carlie’s body was found five days after her disappearance.

Florida law enforcement officials responded to the crime by creating regional Child Abduction Response Teams to train and organize investigators, forensic experts, counselors and community volunteers. The concept has since become a model for the U.S. Justice Department and law enforcement agencies around the country.

"CART is a much-needed tool," said Cybele K. Daley, of the justice department.

To date in Holmes Beach, Davis has signed up 10 volunteers, including some city employees, who underwent a standard background check and a brief training at HBPD.

"A lot of them just thought it was a way to give to the community," Davis said.

"I think that it is important to start a search at the earliest possible time, to get the word out and have people look for missing children," said volunteer Sabine Musil-Buehler. "The chances to find them are a lot bigger when things happen fast."

Musil-Buehler brings to the team the perspective of a parent and grandparent. "I have three granddaughters and if something would happen to them I would lose my mind. That is why I want to help as a volunteer," she said.

CART volunteer Jan Gorman shares this perspective. "I have children and grandchildren who are my life and breath," she said.

Gorman also has some personal experience with a missing child. As a college student, she joined a team of searchers looking for a boy who went missing in Deep Creek, Md.

"We stayed for two days and, unfortunately, he was found drowned in the creek not too far from his campsite," Gorman said. "Just to see the heartbreak and grief his parents went through was heart wrenching. I wouldn’t wish that on any parent. That is the main reason I volunteered for this group."

Davis said she hopes her volunteers never need to be called upon, but they are ready if needed.

During a training session in late January, the officer reviewed with the volunteers the differences between a child who is missing and a child who is abducted.

The team also discussed using a grid system to divide up Holmes Beach in the event a search is needed, with each volunteer responsible for an area.

"They were all enthusiastic about the project," Davis said, adding that another training program with new recruits may take place this spring.

People interested in volunteering can call 708-5804, ext. 243, to leave a name and contact information. Davis said she would like to train about 30 volunteer recruits, adding that the volunteers could also be called upon to assist in searches in Anna Maria and Bradenton Beach.

The project is "a great way to get involved with the local law enforcement to set action in place in case a child does go missing," said volunteer Jodi Rawlings, who has three young children.

"I cannot think of anything more important," she added, than keeping children safe.