Westchester County in cooperation with New York State Attorney General's Office uses a nationally recognized child-finding system called Code Adam in its parks and some public buildings.
Code Adam was created and promoted by the Wal-Mart® retail stores. It is named in memory of 6-year-old Adam Walsh whose 1981 abduction from a Florida shopping mall and subsequent murder brought child abduction to national attention.
The program provides a series of steps that can be taken to most effectively search for lost children and thwart abductions. Code Adam is endorsed by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
We can’t be vigilant enough. We can’t do enough to protect our children said county officials when Westchester became the first county in the state to use Code Adam. When a child is reported missing, we want to make sure that county employees know exactly what to do, and that no time is wasted.
Westchester Parks and Public Works employees were trained by staff from the Attorney General's office to use the child finding procedure. The county’s parks system has an average of 3.5 million visitors a year, about half are children. In 2005, there were 21 children reported missing in county parks. All of them were quickly found unharmed.
Created in 1994, Code Adam has been used widely by department stores and retail establishments. The Attorney General’s Office working with the New York Branch of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children adapted it for use in public facilities. The AGs training program also provides an overview of the types of offenders who might abduct a child as well as ways to prevent abductions.
Code Adam was credited with preventing the abduction of a 3-month-old child at a WalMart in Fishkill, N.Y. The child was snatched but left by the would-be abductor after the alert went out to employees.
Under the Code Adam protocol when a child is reported missing, trained staff would use a checklist to interview the adult caretaker, asking specific questions about physical description, clothing and other relevant information. An alert would then go out to employees who would be assigned specific locations to search. When possible, secondary exits would be blocked with the child’s caretaker stationed at the main exit to help spot the child. At the same time, police are notified. If the child is not found within 5-10 minutes police are called in to investigate.
Speed is essential for the safe recovery of a missing child. Research shows that nearly 40 percent of children abducted by a stranger are murdered and, of those, 74 percent are murdered within three hours.
Edward Suk, executive director of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children/NY Branch, commended the county and the Attorney General’s Office for expanding the program for use in government. “This is an excellent example of how procedures originally developed for retail establishments can be successfully implemented in other public venues. Collaborative efforts between the Attorney General's office and local officials send a strong message of dedication to keeping children safe throughout the community."