Fat Cats & Bureaucrats

Let’s set the record straight.

 

Search - Brad

Brad Dennis & Cheyenne

On February 4, 2014 an FBI press release publicized the recovery of 16 children during a Super Bowl sex trafficking sting. Many of the children traveled to New Jersey from other states specifically to be prostituted at the Super Bowl. The children ranged in age from 13 to 17-years old, including high school students and children who had been reported missing by their families.  Additionally, more than 45-pimps and their associates were arrested during the Blitz the Traffickers sting operation. Arrests were made and victims recovered in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

 

A coalition of grass roots nonprofit organizations (NPO) partnered with law enforcement on Blitz the Traffickers, but the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) was the only NPO mentioned in the FBI release. According to GuideStar, in 2012, NCMEC received a $31,715,505 grant from the United States Department of Justice to pursue their mission of helping to prevent child abduction and sexual exploitation; help find missing children; and assist victims of child abduction and sexual exploitation, their families, and the professionals who serve them. The NCMEC (2012) IRS Form 990 allocates $11,407,540 to, “Provide technical assistance and provide case analysis to assist law enforcement in their efforts to locate and recover missing children and victims of domestic child sex trafficking and to locate and apprehend noncompliant sex offenders”.

 

The NCMEC did not put boots on the ground at Super Bowl XLVIII. Instead, they distributed names and photographs of children they believe might be trafficked to the authorities; and they equipped law enforcement with “hope bags” containing items like flip flops and toothpaste for children rescued from prostitution. This is not a lot of bang for your buck.

Stop Sex Exploitation

Under the leadership of Search and Rescue Director Brad Dennis, KlaasKids, which receives no government funding, has been working with the New Jersey State Police since May 2013 and has participated in several of their sting operations leading up to the big game.  We were embedded with the law enforcement Super Bowl operation from January 28-February 1.  During this time, KlaasKids worked in direct contact with Federal and State intelligence analysts providing information to the operational elements of the law enforcement operation. Our role was two-fold: Providing specific leads regarding online advertisements which had a number of indicators suggesting the commercial sexual exploitation of children. Our most beneficial role was to provide additional analysis to any lead the FBI/NCMEC or other agencies provided to the intelligence unit. Our ability to conduct deep-web searches and scrub the initial ad looking for corroborative information enabled us to provide enhanced intelligence to the undercover operation, as well as, to the interviewers.

In Our BackyardThe KlaasKids Foundation was but one component in a nonprofit coalition that participated in the Blitz the Traffickers operation. For more than a year  Nita Belles worked with the New Jersey Attorney General’s office and local trafficking task forces to overcome operational obstacles and ensure the success of Blitz the Traffickers. The Pensacola based Called2Rescue team provided monitoring services of online escort ads and forwarded over 200-leads to the KlaasKids team in New Jersey. KlaasKids then scrubbed those leads for additional corroboration and submitted 23-specific leads to law enforcement. Several of these leads were in neighboring areas/states and were forwarded to those respective units by the FBI analysts. Free International and StudentReach developed a school assembly program featuring a state-of-the-art 3D multi-media production to prevent child exploitation and features posters of several of the missing children to 30-schools and 6-colleges in New Jersey. Global Child Rescue and Stop Sex Exploitation mobilized local faith based partners to disseminate the awareness posters and missing child books throughout New York and New Jersey.

Free International School Assembly

Free International School Assembly

5000-booklets containing images of 43-regional missing children along with 75,000-football cards featuring 3-missing children were distributed in New Jersey and Times Square, NY.  40,000-human trafficking awareness posters, designed by the Attorney General’s office featuring the New Jersey Human Trafficking Hotline were disseminated. Specific highlights of the Blitz the Traffickers operation included: 16-minors rescued.  27-pimps and/or associates were arrested in New Jersey and 17 in New York.

Global Child Rescue

Unlike the Arlington, VA based NCMEC and Washington, DC headquartered Polaris Project, the Blitz the Traffickers nonprofit coalition did not receive government funding. However, while NCMEC sent pictures and bags full of shampoo and water bottles, and the Polaris Project whined, the Super Bowl nonprofit coalition got busy. They directly assisted in rescuing children, apprehending pimps, and raising awareness about an issue that touches our soul deeply.

Called to Rescue

It seems to me that if American citizens are going to financially support missing child and anti-trafficking nonprofit organizations, they should expect a response that influences policy change through action, dedication and determination. Instead, our national treasure is being squandered on fat cats and bureaucrats.  As a nation we deserve better than that.

We Found Something

It has been a busy weekend for KlaasKids. We facilitated a meeting between the Sierra LaMar Search Center, her family and Congressman Jerry McNerney (CA-11) on Saturday morning. Simultaneously, we participated in an important grass roots rally on behalf of Proposition 35 in Elk Grove. After that Violet and I drove to Sacramento where KlaasKids Foundation SAR Director Brad Dennis was facilitating a weekend worth of searches for missing UC Davis coed Linnea Lomax. Then we found something.

 

Congressman McNerney is the first member of Congress to visit search center since Congressman Mike Honda (CA-15) visited on June 6. Both members of Congress have expressed support for a legislation being considered as a result of Sierra’s disappearance. The new law would close the loophole that allows schools to wait until the end of the day before notifying parents that their children did not attend school.

Violet Klaas, Daphne Phung, Rosario Dowling & Me!

Proposition 35 continues to pick up support as Election Day approaches on November 6. Currently, U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, and Congresswoman Jackie Speier lead a list of more than 60-elected officials who publicly support the anti-trafficking ballot measure that will also bridge Megan’s Law into the 21st Century. They are joined by law enforcement groups representing more than 90,000-sworn police officers and more than 125-child advocacy organizations throughout California.

 

Linnea Lomax is a 19-year-old coed student who disappeared on the early afternoon of Tuesday June 26 after walking away from an outpatient mental health facility near the American River in Sacramento, California. The day before, June 25, Linnea had been released from a psychiatric facility where she was recovering from a psychological breakdown. On July 4, the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department absolved themselves of any responsibility for locating Linnea, despite her fragile mental state, when they said, “Circumstances suggest she is, by all accounts, voluntarily missing and choosing to stay away from friends and family.” Potential sightings, theories and tips that initially flooded the tip line set up by Linnea’s family have since been reduced to a trickle.

 

Left to their own devices the family hired a private investigator to lead the search for Linnea. He focused his investigation on human sex trafficking. KlaasKids assisted this effort by monitoring known websites that advertise escort and erotic services up and down the West Coast, but nothing of consequence turned up. Despite no real evidence that she was involved in the trafficking trade valuable weeks were devoted to that singular scenario. Finally, the family let the private investigator go and eventually asked the KlaasKids Foundation to conduct a search of Linnea.

 

Linnea’s family runs a Christian kids adventure camp near Sacramento. She has grown up among the pristine hills, canyons, valleys, and rivers of Northern California’s Sierra foothills. She was raised near in and around nature, and has a very strong sense of natural surroundings and the environment. She would not leave an orange peel at a camp site out of a concern that the next camper might be offended.

 

This past Friday, Saturday and Sunday KlaasKids sent 230 search volunteers on 40-search assignments. Search volunteers were a combination of family, friends, others drawn from the faith based community, complete strangers, and KlaasKids friends from the Bay Area. The sun was shining brightly and the temperature was in the high 80-90’s range. We focused the search on the American River for two reasons. It was near the mental health facility that she was last seen at, and she was familiar with and loved the American River. It almost always makes sense to focus a search near the last place the victim was last seen.

 

Linnea’s Notebook

On Sunday afternoon one of the search teams found it. Linnea’s notebook, the one she was holding when last seen was there…in the bushes only two blocks away from the mental health facility. It was near a foot path heading toward the river. It seemed to have been flung into the bushes. Our team leader contacted the search center and the authorities. Linnea’s father confirmed the sighting. Now the evidence needs to be processed.

 

Fifty-four days after she disappeared we have developed our first solid lead. We believe that Linnea tossed her notebook into the bushes. Much can be read into that, but it is not my place to do so. What I do feel comfortable pointing out is that in the past five months we have sent out somewhere in the neighborhood of 9,000 volunteers on approximately 900 search assignments in and around Morgan Hill and we have not found anything relating to the disappearance of Sierra LaMar. Stay tuned for updates.

I Am Losing My Best Friend

 By Brad Dennis

Jerry Dennis and granddaughter Taylor Dennis

Jerry Dennis and granddaughter Taylor Dennis

For years the relationship between my Dad and I were strained. Memories of a childhood filled with selfishness and alcoholism far exceeded memories of a Dad playing catch with me. As an adult our friendship blossomed. We reconnected in ways I had only read about and once longed for.

 

My Dad passed onto me his love of golf, Carolina basketball and the New York Yankees. Ours was a relationship built on sports and the way two men can get themselves lost in these conversations. As I grew older and he grew sicker I realized there were more important traits that he shared with me. You see, he has an insatiable drive…anything he ever set his mind to do, he did. His quiet strength and fortitude forged strong friendships with others. His dogged determination in his relationships with his friends had him going out of the way on numerous occasions to help them.

 

I have lost other friends, I have witnessed tragedies, and I have been with numerous families at the worst times of their lives and because of these instances I thought I knew grief. The grief I did not know has washed over me in waves. First as we sat and listened to my dad tell us he was ready to go, and now as I sit and watch him wither away into a shell of the man I love. I now know grief.

 

His breaths are more labored, the memories of him come like a flood. There are the memories of him coaching my Little League baseball team, teaching me to play golf, the arguments and the love. Memories of him answering my call for help as my High School date and I got stuck in a ditch. I remember he pulled up, got out the jack, jacked up the back wheel and then slammed the car off the jack and back onto traction. He walked over to me and winked and then said, “Son, you need to get this young lady home to her family.” Nothing else has EVER been said about that night. He was the one I ran to during a marriage crisis He is the one that gave my wife her first real “dad” relationship. For all of these memories I am thankful.

 

I know that most of us hope to bury our parents and not the other way around. I know that what is happening is the circle of life. I know that his decision to accept Jesus Christ into his life brings to life the scripture, “absent from body means present with the Lord.” And even though I know all of these things…right now, I know grief more.

 

Memories will sustain us in these times. To my friends, expect to see me on the golf course more, as I walk the fairways or line up my next putt, know that I’m playing so that I can reconnect with my caddy – my Dad.

 

Brad’s father Jerry Dennis passed quietly this morning. Please keep the Dennis family in your thoughts and prayers. MK