LaSalle one of nine agencies to form area ‘JCARD team’

Detectives from nine law enforcement agencies throughout Central Louisiana completed FBI training last week on child abductions to form the Alexandria Joint Child Abduction Rapid Deployment (JCARD) team.

In the event of a child abduction in Central Louisiana, this team of 41 highly trained detectives will be sent to the city or parish to assist in locating the missing child.

“Speed of response is critical when a child has been abducted or has gone missing,” FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge for Violent Crime Investigations for Louisiana Andrew Anderson said. “Statistics show nearly 75 percent of children abducted by a stranger are murdered within the first three hours and after 24 hours the number jumps to nearly 90 percent.”

“The FBI formed the first Child Abduction Rapid Response, or ‘CARD’ teams in 2006 to provide teams of uniformly trained FBI investigators available to quickly deploy in the event of a child abduction (nation-wide),” Anderson continued.

But it was a case in 2014, in Louisiana, that the federal agency saw the need to have “Joint” CARD teams located throughout the nation if they were ever to really make a difference.

“In 2014, a four-year old child went missing here in Louisiana,” Anderson said. “Sadly, this child had drowned in an abandon well within a few steps of their home but remained undiscovered for nearly 36 hours in the murky water. Although this particular tragedy would not have been avoided, the CARD methodologies would likely have recovered this child much sooner.”

A CARD-trained Special Agent who responded to this incident recognized the need to share the CARD tactics, techniques and procedures with their law enforcement partners at the state, local, and federal levels. It was at that moment that the Joint Child Abduction Rapid Response concept was born – here in Louisiana.

FBI Special Agent and CARD Lead Investigator Robert King of Baton Rouge was one of the agents on the scene in 2014 and it was that case that prompted him to develop the JCARD program…a program that allows area agencies to train with the same FBI methodologies they use to form local teams for rapid deployment.

“The FBI’s CARD (teams) are deployed when needed, but by then valuable time has been lost,” King said. “This Alexandria JCARD team will now have the tools and education needed to do the exact same things we would do if we were there. Of course, we are still coming when called, but now everyone will be a step ahead instead of a step behind.”

In early 2015, JCARD training began with the very first team established in Baton Rouge, where King lives and works.

Since that time, JCARD’s have been established across the country with the tenth such team commissioned last Thursday at the Grant Parish Sheriff’s Office Detective Complex.

“Four of the 10 JCARD’s in the entire country are right here in Louisiana and the Alexandria JCARD team is our tenth to be established,” King said. “If there is a child abducted in Central Louisiana and this JCARD team is activated, you will have over 40 FBI-trained detectives at the lead agencie’s office within 30 minutes ready to get to work.”

Anderson notes that state and local law enforcement officers are the first responders to missing children reports so it is common sense that they shouldn’t have to waste valuable time waiting for other assistance when they can be trained to start the work as soon as they get the call.

“These agencies have sent their best investigators to form a regional JCARD team,” Anderson told members of the media last Thursday. “While JCARD does teach some investigative techniques and innovations in child abduction investigations, the primary focus of JCARD is to establish a single, effective process, known and practiced by all JCARD team members, to be used in the investigation.”

“This established process saves precious time; time which is so critical whether a child is in the hands of a stranger, or lost and facing a cold night in the forest,” he continued.

For instance, since the establishment of the first JCARD team, the Baton Rouge JCARD, the team has been deployed four times since 2015.

“In each of these four times they were deployed, they had the missing/abducted child back home safely within two to four hours after being activated,” King said. “We know this works and we are thankful to have such a team of dedicated officers working with our newest JCARD team for Central Louisiana.”

Training for the 40-plus officers took place last Wednesday and Thursday, led by King and FBI Special Agent Phil Niedringhaus of the Denver, Colorado division and also the West CARD Team Leader. At the end of their training, they were given a mock child abduction case to solve before they were commissioned as the newest team.

Agencies who are part of the Alexandria JCARD team include: Grant Parish Sheriff’s Department, LaSalle Parish Sheriff’s Department, Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Department, Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Department, Vernon Parish Sheriff’s Department, Pineville Police Department, Alexandria Police Department, and the Natchitoches Police Department.

For LaSalle Parish, Detectives Tracy Clark and Connie Zeagler were chosen by Sheriff Scott Franklin as its department’s members of the Alexandria JCARD team.

“All of our detectives do an exceptional job so we could have sent any of them, but these two were chosen for their experience in dealing with missing persons and juveniles,” Franklin said. “When you talk about a missing or abducted child, time is everything, so I’m thankful to be a part of this life-saving initiative that is proven to work.”

The training and all materials for the formation of the JCARD team was provided free of charge to the agencies by the FBI. Grant Parish Sheriff Steven McCain and his department provided the facility and meals for the training last week.

“I want to thank all the sheriffs and chiefs who supported the training and volunteered their deputies and officers to attend,” Anderson said. “The formation of the Alexandria JCARD team is a testimony to your law enforcement leadership’s dedication to the safety of our children.”