In 1993, 9-yearold Stephanie Crane disappeared while walking home from a bowling alley in Challis, Idaho.
Earlier that year, 11-year-old Jeralee Underwood was kidnapped while walking her Pocatello newspaper route, then murdered.
Stories like these horrify parents who realize that child abductions are not just isolated cases in big cities.
“You know it can happen in Coeur d’Alene as easily as somewhere else,” said Joni Mack, parent of a Dalton Gardens Elementary student.
Mack and others in the school’s parent group are bringing David Collins of the Kevin Collins Foundation for Missing Children to Coeur d’Alene this week to educate the public about child predators.
Children are not invited to the lecture because of its content. The free talk is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Lake City High School auditorium.
Collins’ 11-year-old son disappeared in 1984. He was last seen waiting for the bus after basketball practice. His parents never saw him again.
“Thousands of people were calling us who had kids missing all over the country,” Collins said Friday from his San Francisco office. “So we started sitting down (with police) and asking, ‘What can we do to help you do your jobs?”’
The foundation is an educational and activist organization. It assists in searching for lost children and lobbies to improve laws that track and jail child predators. A chapter of the foundation opened in Challis after Stephanie’s disappearance.
Although accurate figures are hard to find, Collins estimates that 12,000 children nationwide are kidnapped each year by strangers, and the number gradually is increasing.
In Idaho, 145 children were victims of kidnappings in 1994. Of those, 38 were kidnapped by a parent, grandparent or partner of a parent.
In 1993, 100 children were kidnapped, 23 by someone in the family.
While runaway children are common, Coeur d’Alene has not had any abductions by strangers in recent years, said police Capt. Carl Bergh.
“The only unsolved missing cases that I’m aware of that are long-standing happen to be adults,” he said. But, he cautioned, “those types of cases happen in all sorts of communities.”
The apparent increase in child abductions has given birth to businesses that cater to worried parents.
Spencer and Nancy Truong of Hayden recently formed Child Safety Services, a company that sells video registration kits, which includes a fingerprinting kit.
With the kit, parents can videotape and fingerprint their child, and Child Safety Services will store the tape for two years. The company will copy and distribute the tape, as well as make and distribute 1,000 “missing” posters, in the event the child disappears.
Collins claims that 98 percent of all abducted children are released within six days. Only a small percentage prompt a regionwide or nationwide search.
Police say child safety businesses can be helpful, but parents who can’t afford the service can take precautions that are as effective.
Up-to-date photographs of your children probably are one of the best tools to help police, Bergh said.
Police also stress prevention. For instance, Post Falls police have a Kid Care program, which teaches prevention and what to do if your child is lost.
“Everyone acting in concert has been successful in educating our children about safety and being approached by strangers,” Bergh said. “We are very, very thankful we have not had any cases (of abduction by strangers) in our community.”
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