The Day the Laughter Died

Polly and her sister Annie Nichol

Polly and her sister Annie Nichol

It’s a common refrain for people in my situation. Your child is kidnapped. Time passes and answers are not forthcoming. You sink into despair as you contemplate why God has forsaken your family, yourself, and most importantly your child. What are you to do if you are thrashing about in total darkness without a flashlight to guide you to the path of hope?

 

Robin Williams was not a friend of mine. However, we lived in the same general community in Northern California. He was known to pop up unexpectedly and without an entourage at local comedy clubs, restaurants, county fairs, and other places that normal people would frequent. At any rate our paths had never crossed until the dark days after Polly’s abduction on October 1, 1993.

 

mrs-doubtfireMr. Williams was but one of many who assisted with the Polly search. I learned that he had reached out to Polly’s half-sister Annie (not my daughter) and the girls who were with Polly on the night that she was kidnapped. He spent time with them. He gave them autographed copies of the Mrs. Doubtfire script, and ultimately reintroduced laughter into the broken hearts of suffering children.

 

When he showed up during a fundraising event in Santa Rosa he brought light into the darkness. When he took over auctioneer duties the trickle of support became a river of sustenance. An autographed Willie Mays baseball bat which had been languishing at around $100 quickly sold for more than $2,000 and the man who purchased it couldn’t have been happier. And so it went throughout the evening as the manic styling of the comic with the sad eyes stole hearts and induced much needed laughter.

 

The last time I saw him was at Piatti Restaurant in Mill Valley. He was seated alone at a table for four, facing away from the panoramic view of Mt. Tamalpais and the Marin Headlands. When Violet and I were seated I nodded to him. He smiled in response. Violet encouraged me to approach Mr. Williams to thank him for the unsolicited $10,000 donation that he had made some years later and his overall kindness, but I declined. I wish I could take that moment back, because I don’t think I ever formally thanked him for his benevolence and caring. Now it is too late, because although my season in Hell is long past, his did not end until last Monday: the day the laughter died.

No Justice for Polly

Polly Klaas

Polly Klaas

I feel like I have been betrayed by my beloved California, as have the other families of people killed by California’s death row killers, who are responsible for murdering more than 1,000 people, including 229 children and 43 police officers. By extension the victim families and friends of the nearly 1,400 lifers that Governor Brown has paroled since taking office in 2011 have also been betrayed, as have the victims of the 18,000 felons who were released from prison early as a result of Governor Brown’s prison realignment plan.

Killer RA Davis

Richard Davis killed Polly Klaas

As a crime victim whose 12-year-old daughter was killed by an unrepentant and violent psychopath, I fully expected that it would only be a matter of time before justice would be served after Judge William Hastings imposed the death sentence with this admonition, “Mr. Davis, this is always a traumatic and emotional decision for a judge. You made it very easy today by your conduct.”

Alex Hamilton killed Police officer Larry Alasater

Alex Hamilton killed Police officer Larry Alasater

Unfortunately, in California, courtroom sentences literally aren’t worth the paper that they are printed on. Just the other day United States District Court Judge Cormac J. Carney declared California’s death penalty unconstitutional because a sense of uncertainty and delay, “violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.”

Trailside Killer David Carpenter murdered raped & murdered at least five women

Trailside Killer David Carpenter raped & murdered at least five women

That Polly’s killer has been on death row for seventeen-years without being executed may be unusual, but it is certainly not cruel. It was cruel when he kidnapped, raped and strangled my Polly in order to, “avoid AIDS by getting a young one,” as was revealed at trial. It was cruel when the judge arbitrarily decided that neither he nor California’s other 747 death row killers will face the sentence imposed upon them by a jury of their peers. It is cruel when the will of the people and the law of the land are subverted by a powerful and unrepresentative minority.

Ramon-Salcido_mugshot.400x800

Ramon Salcido murdered seven relatives including his wife and two daughters

I will never understand how activist judges, the ACLU, the defense bar, and other prison rights apologists are willing to undermine the criminal justice system, betray victims and their families, and endanger innocent people for the approval of killers, rapists and thugs. That they seek the endorsement of society’s underbelly links them to depravity, amorality and future victimization, yet they will never be held accountable for their actions. Might these decisions and this trend represent the death of punishment in California?

The Long & Winding Road To Recovery

Polly Klaas

Polly Klaas

The past two years have offered much opportunity for personal reflection. 2013 was the 20th anniversary of Polly’s tragedy, which I wrote about in the last edition of the KlaasKids Foundation newsletter Klaas Action Review. The year 2014 now marks 20 years since the founding of the KlaasKids Foundation. Earlier this year I penned an open letter to Polly on her birthday, reminiscing about that horrible experience two decades ago, and I blogged about being honored by the president of the United States as I battled debilitating grief.

 

This is the first post in a four-part series on the theme of reflection as three other parents, all friends of mine, who lost their children have generously offered to share their stories. Only one has been reunited with their child.

Michaela Garecht

Michaela Garecht

Nine-year-old Michaela Garecht was kidnapped in front of witnesses from a supermarket parking lot in Hayward, California, on November 19, 1988, and hasn’t been seen since. Tomorrow, her mother Sharon Murch, who continues to search for her precious daughter, shares her story with a focus on the endurance of hope and the therapeutic value of writing: How it has helped her to reconcile emotions and define her feelings.

Andrea Brewer

Andrea Brewer

On Friday Rebecca Petty will share a remarkable tale of triumph over tragedy. On May 15, 19999, 12-year-old Andi Brewer was kidnapped, raped, and murdered. Three days later, Karl Roberts led the FBI to her remains. Andi’s mother, Rebecca Petty rose from the ashes of despair and recently graduated from Arkansas Tech University with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. She is currently pursuing her vision of ensuring that children grow up safe by running for the Arkansas House of Representatives.

Nathan Slinkard

Nathan Slinkard

Next Monday Steven Slinkard, who was recently reunited with his son Nathan after nearly two decades will share his story. Steven was completely unprepared when his ex-wife failed to return his three children after a court-ordered visitation and then disappeared in October 1995. He spent the next 18-years afraid that he might never see his kids again. Yet that did not stop him from reaching out through his own pain, doubt, and uncertainty to help others in a similar situation. Steven shares the elation he experienced just recently, on February 4, 2014, when he was finally reunited with a son he hadn’t seen on almost 20-years.

 

I thank Sharon, Rebecca, and Steven for sharing their stories. For all of them, it would have been much easier to reject my request. Introspection is difficult at the best of times, but when done in the context of a dead or missing child, the challenges can become debilitating. However, as Sharon Murch says, the redemptive qualities of writing can also be profoundly therapeutic. Their generosity affords us a glimpse into the range of feelings and emotions that can span decades in a parent’s quest for answers.

 

Happy Birthday Polly

8 yr old Polly - HalloweenHappy Birthday baby! Instead of celebrating the beginning of your 33rd year today, you remain a fading memory that informs my humanity as you guide my soul. Much has happened in 2013, some good and some bad, but there is so much left to do in this New Year that looms before us all.

 

2013 was not a good year for kids or crime victims, but it was a great year for criminals. While public support for our cause remains strong, political support has all but disappeared. It is as if the lessons learned from tragedy have been forgotten by policy makers and those that they represent. Unless you symbolize the cause de jour, elected officials ignore our pleas. If we can’t help them to win reelection, they have neither the time nor the inclination to stand with us or commit to our cause.

 

I’m afraid that child/public safety legislation has, for the most part, stalled in Federal and State legislatures, so the voice of the people is now represented in voter driven initiatives, State ballot measures and propositions. Eighty-one percent of California voters supported Proposition 35, which strengthened prison sentences for human traffickers and provided social services for victims of human trafficking, but we couldn’t muster enough support in two years of legislative lobbying to get the issue out of committee.

 

According to the FBI, violent crime rates have increased for the first time since you were murdered 20-years ago, yet lawmakers prefer to debate ideology, gay marriage, marijuana legalization, or any of a host of other fringe topics over public safety. In California Governor Brown continues to dump incarcerated felons into communities. As a result, property crime is at a 30-year high, and sex offenders are cutting off their GPS ankle bracelets and absconding without consequence.

 

I continue to be perplexed by funding within our industry. While the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children continues to rake in millions of tax payer dollars to support their golden calf in Alexandria, VA without explanation or justification, KlaasKids continues to work in the trenches on a shoestring. In 2013, we were actively involved in 106 cases. This number does not adequately reflect the total number of calls received by our Search Center but does detail the specific cases in which we provided services at the request of family or jurisdictional law enforcement agency.

 

KlaasKids 2013 caseload ranged from reports of SAR consultations (54%), SAR missions (25%), Human Trafficking consultations (9%), Human Trafficking rescue and extractions (5%), leads submitted to law enforcement (6%), and child abuse (1%). Of those, 77-cases have been resolved. We also certified our West Coast Search and Rescue (SAR) team, so that we will be able to provide more comprehensive national coverage for less money in 2014. None of this would have occurred without your inspiration.

 

Technology has not produced a silver bullet that will protect children when they venture online and engage social media. However, by combining existing technology solutions with good parenting skills and a do/don’t approach, we can ensure that kids are better protected in 2014 than they were in 2013. Kids should have fun with the Internet. They should experiment, email, chat, surf, research, play games, and create social networking profiles so that they can communicate with their friends. They just need to be careful about doing so. Kids should trust their parents and talk to them about their Internet experience, follow their rules, and allow them to monitor online activities. They should inform their parents if they see violent or pornographic images. These may be illegal images, and are certainly not intended for the eyes of children. Stay on public, monitored, child friendly rooms if they are using instant messaging or entering chat rooms. Predators have the advantage because they are anonymous on the Internet. Remember, not everybody is who they say they are.

 

Don’t share personal information online. Kid’s identity, address, school, phone number, passwords, etc. should never be shared with people that they don’t know in real life. Predators and rogue marketers can use this information against them. Be smart and keep social networking profiles private. By sharing social networking profiles only with friend’s children are ensuring the integrity of their friends and the validity of their profiles. Don’t reply to or start a conversation with people they don’t know. Don’t accept gifts from them or agree to meet with them. It is a terrible idea for anyone to open email attachments from people that you do not know. They may contain viruses or malware. Finally, don’t plagiarize. It is cheating to copy other people’s ideas and pass them off as your own.

 

The prevention front represents a shining star in the child safety constellation. One thing that Democratic and Republican elected officials agree on is the importance of investing in at-risk kids so that they have opportunity later in life. They agree that the best way to prevent crime and violence is through investments in early childhood development. Federal after-school funds served fewer than 10,000 kids in 1996, but today federal funding supports programs that serve over one million children.

 

One last thing before I go. Last year we also created a new fund to help the families of kidnap victims with housing costs and KlaasKids donated $6,000 to Cleveland kidnapping victim Michelle Knight. Her beautiful thank new note said, “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, she became a butterfly.”

 

And so another year has passed. The seasons have come and gone. Tragedies occur with every rising sun and miracles grace our sunsets. People remain hopeful as our politicians dither in their legislative playpens. Music, flowers, the arts, love, family and everyday good deeds remind us that hope reigns eternal. However, I find it difficult to conceive the concept of eternity without you in my life.

Endgame

polly-s-poster-cropped-irfan-480When Polly’s mother Eve Nichol and I were summoned to the Petaluma PD on November 30, 1993 my ability to reach reasonable conclusions had morphed into unreasonable and angry denial. We were in the Chief’s office with Petaluma Police Captain Parks and FBI Special Agent Mershon who told us that they had arrested the man who kidnapped Polly. They watched us carefully for signs of recognition, as we looked at the cold blank eyes staring back at us from the Polaroid snapshot. The kidnapper looked remarkably like the composite on the flyer in a crude unnerving way, but with harsh features. We said that we had never seen him before. They told us that we should get used to the fact that Polly was probably dead because the perp had a long history of violence and had spent most of his life behind bars. “What? You dare to tell me that Polly is dead without proof? Has he ever been convicted of murder?” No. “Then fuck you. I’m not interested in your opinion. Go find my daughter, and then we’ll discuss opinions.” Hobbled by a badly strained back, I shuffled out of the station, got into my car and returned to the donated apartment that Violet and I had been using and in which I was spending increasing amounts of time.

 

Confined to the floor by pain, my world was shrinking as the truth about Polly’s fate slowly played out on television. The kidnapper denied that he had kidnapped “the fucking little broad,” but his sordid criminal history included incidents of kidnapping, robbery, assaults with shotguns, handguns, knives and fireplace pokers. An old girlfriend had committed suicide by shotgun in his presence. He was diagnosed as a sexually sadistic psychopath in 1978. On scene television correspondents breathlessly reported that Polly’s remains had been located seemingly wherever a dog had left its bone. I took comfort in the knowledge that any real break in the case would be conveyed to me by the police, in person and not through the irresponsible speculation playing out on television.

 

Words weren’t really necessary when Eve and I were next summoned to the Petaluma PD on Saturday night December 4. We were picked up in separate patrol cars. By the time I arrived in the Chief’s office Eve was already there, sitting with her face in her hands, crying softly. Captain Parks and Agent Mershon, the only other people in the room, also had tears in their eyes. They were sorry to inform me that the kidnapper had confessed and led them to the garbage pile near a rural highway off ramp where he discarded our baby. They recommended that we not view the remains, but instead remember Polly as she was in life.

 

I heard his words, but they hadn’t yet pierced my heart. I asked if we could tell our families before the news broke. Within fifteen minutes the Chief’s office was full of Polly’s relatives. I did not cry as tears welled up in their eyes and as they expelled sighs of sorrow with their heads bowed in anguish. I asked if we could inform the volunteers at the search center so that they wouldn’t have to learn the truth on the television. I called over and conveyed the sad news, my voice soft, but never wavering. Then we climbed into our cars and drove home in a slow, silent, caravan.

 

The little street on which we lived was covered in winter leaves and as I walked through our front door I remember thinking how beautiful they looked in death. Somebody started a fire, and Violet and I, drained from two months of futile battle, lay down in front of the fireplace. Only then did my emotions fully engage. The rumble began in my core, but quickly found primal voice. I jumped to my feet blinded by tears, a banshee scream escaping from my torched soul. I would have destroyed my home had the men in the room not held me and contained the explosion of my broken heart. Polly was dead and the only thing I wanted to do was to join her.

2 year old x-masFinally, the wire had snapped and I plummeted into the bottom of the abyss without a net to break my fall. I had hung my hope on the illusion that hard work would allow me to snatch life from the clutches of death, but death is irreversible and indisputable. It took a 65-day, high velocity descent to learn that the reality of death exists in its finality. When I hit bottom I shattered like glass and shattered glass cannot be easily reassembled. Even if you manage to precisely fuse the shards, the best that you can hope for is a bizarre mosaic of refracting light that bears little resemblance to the original. Instead of strength you have fragility; instead of clarity you have mirrors of illusion.

Missing Kids on Facebook

Bryce

We see and hear about these stories all the time. Some hideous pervert, masquerading as Johnny Cool, befriends a young girl on Facebook and entices her to a clandestine meeting at a remote location. By the time she realizes that she has been duped it is too late. We then read the disturbing results online or watch the grisly aftermath on Nancy Grace or any of a number of True Crime television shows. Well, that’s not what this is about. This is about how Facebook has become the milk carton project of the 21st Century.

 

The most enduring symbol of the missing child issue is the flyer. They have been with us ever since 4-year-old Charlie Ross was kidnapped in front of his Germantown, PA home on July 1, 1874. Since then very few things have changed. Flyers are printed on paper, and people post them in storefronts and on telephone poles. As technology advances, so do the places that you will find missing child flyers. First they were in newspapers, then on TV, and now on the Internet. For a short time in the early 1980’s they were even reprinted on milk cartons.

 

Polly was the Internet’s first missing child. But, instead of that representing an evolutionary step forward the Internet simply became another missing child flyer destination. The only difference is that instead of taping them to telephone poles, various organizations stacked missing flyers like cordwood on their website.

 

BM WebsiteIn 2001 I co-founded BeyondMissing.com, to provide law enforcement with a cost effective, efficient means of using the Internet to create and distribute missing flyers to targeted recipient lists. This was the first time that missing flyers were able to be easily created and distributed en-mass by America’s law enforcement community. Although the program had a 95% recovery rate lack of Federal and industry rival support forced us to shut our doors earlier this year. The BeyondMissing parent flyer tool has been accessed and utilized over 3,560 times by families and organizations searching for a missing child, and will be available on KlaasKids.org in the very near future. BeyondMissing was evolutionary in that it represented the first and only option beyond print media utilized to create and mass distribute missing flyers.

 

Facebook has changed all that. Instead of a static, forlorn photograph staring  back at you from a missing poster, Facebook has enabled the families and supporters of missing persons to post multiple photo’s, videos, links to news stories, and testimonials from friends and family in one easy to reach destination. Missing person Facebook pages are not static so they can be updated in real time. Pending fundraising events or press conferences can be advertised, as can case updates. There are missing person communities on Facebook that share missing pages far and wide. They talk about the kids, create forums, share ideas and find commonalities. There is no charge for this dynamic, user friendly application.

 

LinneaMy advice to anybody with a missing child is to use the Facebook advantage. You don’t have to be particularly computer savvy, and in fact you don’t even really need a computer. FedEx Office (formerly Kinko’s) has all of the hardware and software tools, including online access that you need to create a missing person FB page. If you still don’t feel that you have the skill set to accomplish this objective ask friends and family to help you.

 

Of course, there is a downside to all of this. There are no restrictions on who can create these pages. Unfortunately, I know of many cases where either fake or misleading pages have been posted.  People who have no attachment to the case and don’t even know the missing person or their family have also exploited this opportunity for one reason or another. Therefore, you must be careful and try to determine if the page that you have landed on is real, or is it fake!

 

I think that we can all agree that technology has and will continue to change the way we approach child safety and missing kids. However, Facebook above all other technologies or applications has evolved the imagery of missing children in ways that were unimaginable during the 20th Century.

Death Penalty: Fix It, Don’t Nix It!

 

ScumThe events that transpired during the 1996 death penalty trial of my 12-year-old daughter Polly’s killer were extreme, even for a death penalty case, but the events that have transpired in the 17 years since simply defy belief. No one, not even the defense, argued that Richard Allen Davis wasn’t the person who snuck into Polly’s bedroom in the late evening of October 1, 1993, tied, bound and gagged her girlfriends and stole her into the night. All agreed that he strangled and discarded her remains on a trash pile adjacent to a freeway off ramp in Cloverdale, CA in the early hours of the next morning. The points of contention were whether or not he raped my child and whether he committed the heinous crime of his own free will or if the Devil made him do it.

 

More of his life has been spent behind bars than on the street. He had been previously diagnosed as a sexually sadistic psychopath, and his endless rap sheet was filled with violent encounters, attempted sexual assaults and kidnappings. People would avoid him on the street because of his public drinking, prison tattoo’s, surly manner, or gruff language. He had no friends because he couldn’t be trusted, so he depended upon his duplicitous family for support.

 

He was three months out of prison, rehabilitated, and working a job that paid more than twice the minimum wage when he decided to murder my child. Prior to being released from prison he told cell mates that he would avoid AIDS by, “Getting a young one.” Kidnapping, raping and murdering my little girl was Richard Allen Davis’ definition of safe sex.

richarddavis3Evil exists and he epitomizes evil. When he was found guilty of killing Polly he turned toward the jury and stuck both middle fingers in the air. As the sentence of death was about to be imposed, he told the judge that he didn’t rape the little girl because she told him, “Don’t do me like my dad.” Apparently, the depths of his depravity have no boundaries.

 

Many good men and women who helped to solve the case have quietly passed since he was sentenced to death row seventeen-years ago. Should the glacial appeals process for Polly’s killer be exhausted there is a small, but determined group of individuals who will continue to lobby on his behalf. They decry the death penalty. They say that it is inhumane, that it is beneath us as a civilization, that it is immoral and that it costs too much. They have successfully denied the law and subverted the will of the people of California for far too long.

 

We need to exert our will and demand that justice be served. It has become apparent that this will never be accomplished through the California state legislature. Join me in supporting the Death Penalty Reform & Savings Coalition.

Polly Klaas – Jan. 3, 1981 – Oct. 1, 1993

1.5 yr & Dad on Merry Go Round

In 1993, 868,345 persons were reported missing in the United States of America. I wish to write about, remember, and honor one of them.

 

1993 sometimes seems so near that I can reach out and grab it, and sometimes so distant that the details are blurred memories, but since very few people who were touched by her plight ever met Polly, I will do my best to tell you about her. She was a very pretty, smart, cheerful and engaging girl who was just beginning to realize life’s potential. She was a skilled actor who could nail the first read through of a script. She could ride a bike, had mastered swimming and wanted me to teach her how to play baseball, so that she could ‘play with the boys.’ On Sunday evenings I enjoyed sitting on the couch with Polly on one side and Violet on the other. Polly and I would cackle at Homer and Bart Simpson’s mindless antics while Violet looked at us quizzically and asked what was so funny? Even in life we thought of Polly as an old soul because of the depth of her compassion and capacity for love. She was the kind of a girl who would make her presence known when she entered the room. When she left it would be with an unspoken, “Hey, remember me!”

 

Polly lived with her mom in Petaluma, but we had joint custody. She would spend 2-days a week with Violet and me, take vacations and spend most Holiday’s with us. We talked on the phone almost every night. The last time we spoke was on October 1. She was very enthusiastic about the slumber party she was hosting for her girlfriends. Before we hung up I told her that I loved her. “I love you too Daddy,” she replied.

 

If Polly were kidnapped in 2013 instead of 1993, things would have played out very differently. In 1993, when the authorities issued an APB with the stipulation that Polly’s kidnapping was “Not for press release,” that led to a series of systematic failures that might have cost Polly her life. Two Sheriff’s deputies that confronted the killer about an hour after she was kidnapped had no idea who they were dealing with and sent him on his way instead of arresting him on the spot. Today we have inter-agency cooperation, written protocols, computer system interoperability, and a much greater awareness of the issue. The two deputies who helped a killer pull his car out of a ditch would have been informed and might have been able to solve the case much more quickly. Also, there is no doubt in my mind that today the killer would be a third striker which means that he wouldn’t have had the opportunity to kidnap, rape and kill because he would already be incarcerated. We simply don’t revolve recidivist offenders through the turnstile as quickly as we did in 1993. Finally, today we have the Amber Alert which was originally designed for this type of scenario. Unfortunately, as it became institutionalized its effectiveness was substantially diminished.

 

Ironically, I don’t know how many of those changes would have occurred if it had not been for Polly. She had become the face of American victimization as quickly as her killer had become the face of crime in America. She was the symbol, first of hope and then of loss. She was the impetus, but certainly not the inspiration, for California’s hugely successful 3-strikes law. The FBI wrote the first predatory abduction protocol based on her crime, she was the Internet’s first missing child, and all future community responses and volunteer search efforts have been measured against Petaluma’s heroic effort.

 

I think that the work the KlaasKids Foundation has done on Polly’s behalf has had an influence on our cause. One of the reasons that Polly’s situation received so much attention is because my family and I were unrelenting in our desire to bring her home alive. Prior to Polly’s kidnapping there had been a rash of predatory abductions in the Bay Area. They would all begin with a roar and end shortly thereafter in a whimper. We embraced the media as partners, not adversaries and did everything that we could to keep her story alive, because we knew that if the media went home people would stop caring. If the people stopped caring there would come a time when law enforcement would stop investigating. I feared that we would join the ranks of those caught in the limbo of “not knowing”.

 

Also, throughout the past 20-years KlaasKids has been there for the families of the missing. We are invested in preventing future abductions, but are also ready to respond if a child is missing. To date, KlaasKids SAR has helped 866-families of missing children throughout the United States, including numerous high profile abduction cases. We’ve conducted 273 searches for missing persons around the country; trained over 1100 professional search and rescue volunteers; and assisted in the recovery of 39 women and children involved in sex trafficking throughout the United States.

 

With BeyondMissing our flyer creation and distribution technology was utilized by registered law enforcement in 35 states in the search for 340 abducted/missing children. BeyondMissing tools had a 95% recovery rate and to date registered users have recovered 323 children. BeyondMissing was utilized by law enforcement to issue 174 Amber Alerts, 56 Local Amber Alerts, 16 Abduction Alerts and 94 Missing Child Alerts. Collectively, BeyondMissing has distribution 1,231,500 emails, 34,400 text messages and initiated distribution to 1,721,800 faxes to “targeted” recipients on behalf of law enforcement. The BeyondMissing Parent Flyer Tool has been accessed and utilized over 3,560 times by families and organizations searching for a missing child.

 

Our community outreach program, the Print-A-Thon, has enabled us to travel to more than 40-states where we have interacted with young families, fingerprinted/photographed and provided comprehensive suites of child safety materials to more than 1,000,000 children without ever charging a family for the service or database personal or private information.

 

We were front line soldiers in the effort to provide interoperability between government computer systems, truth-in-sentencing, Megan’s Law, the Adam Walsh Act and prevention funding for at risk youth so that they would have options in life beyond drugs and crime. We did not help to get 3-strikes passed, but have defended it passionately in the years since. During the last election cycle we took a leadership role in Prop.35, which targets human traffickers, provides much needed services for victims of human trafficking and passed by a greater margin than any other ballot initiative in California history.

 

Our website, KlaasKids.org is nearing the completion of a major overhaul that will make our suite of online services even more powerful, vibrant and excellent than they already are. Our popular comparative analysis of each state’s Megan’s Law has been updated and redesigned with the latest data.

 

We believe that the future of child safety exists in technology. There are documented cases of FB & Twitter having been instrumental in the recovery of missing kids.  There is thousands of missing child pages on FB & numerous communities dedicated to recovering the missing. Each of those pages provides multiple pictures, video, links to articles, & testimonials thereby making organizations like NCMEC virtually obsolete as far as the public is concerned.

 

Smart phone alert apps like PGA can bypass government bureaucracy and distribute missing child information in minutes instead of hours. Free child friendly web browsers like Cocoon for KlaasKids protects children from rogue marketers and other dangers that exist online. We anticipate that GPS technology is on the cusp of great changes that will be protective of kids. Database technology and computer system interoperability are fully realized concepts. Technology’s dream is fast catching up to technology’s reality and KlaasKids will continue to explore how it can prevent, respond to and recover child abduction.

 

Unlike other, much better funded child locater NPO’s the KlaasKids Foundation staff and volunteers do more than sit behind our desks answering phones and posting flyers on our website. We innovate, we advocate, we search, we educate, and we take a stand where others remain silent.

 

Late at night on October 1, 1993, when Polly was being forced into the night at knifepoint, under the threat of death she said, “Please don’t hurt my mother and sister.” At that moment in time she was the bravest little girl in the world. She remains our beacon, our inspiration and the reason that we will continue to focus on the fight for America’s children until we draw our last breath.

KlaasKids 3.0 – Happy Birthday Polly

Today we should be celebrating Polly’s 32nd birthday. Instead we are honoring her memory by introducing powerful new technology and philanthropic programs to the world that were inspired by her brief life.

 

2013 also represents the 20th year of our advocacy on behalf of America’s children. We can think of no better way to acknowledge that milestone than by providing 21st century solutions that put the power of prevention and pro-action in the hands of families, neighborhoods and communities.

 

We have forcefully engaged the public policy arena for the past 20 years because we believe that public safety is Governments fundamental duty.  Every citizen has the right to walk on safe streets, to send their children to safe schools and to live without the fear of violence or victimization.

 

In the early 1990’s, when America was experiencing an epidemic of crime, we supported truth in sentencing, the assault weapons ban, and criminal accountability. We championed Megan’s Law so that communities would be aware of registered sex offenders in their midst. In the new millennium we spoke out loud and often for Jessica’s Law, and defended every effort to undermine California’s 3-Strikes & You’re Out Law. KlaasKids was one of the first organizations to acknowledge that the United States supplies much of our own human trafficking demand, and have worked diligently to educate the public and rescue underage victims of human trafficking. These past few years we have labored to update Megan’s Law into the 21st Century by including internet identifiers as a component of the registration process.

 

But now, all of that work is coming undone, because of apathy and government incompetence. And those who will suffer the consequences are the very people government is entrusted to protect.

 

In recent years California’s Department of Public Health has ignored Jessica’s Law and paper screened tens of thousands of potential sexually violent predators like John Gardner back onto our streets.

 

In October 2011 Governor Brown’s prison realignment program reassigned the responsibility for housing and monitoring tens of thousands of so-called non serious, non-violent, non-sexual prison inmates from the state to the Counties. This is a responsibility that the counties were ill equipped to accept or handle, and as a result serious, violent and sexual crime rates have soared.

 

California voters overwhelmingly passed the 3-Strikes & You’re Out Law in 1994, and by 2012, you were half as likely to be a victim of violent crime as you would have been in 1993. Yet, a cleverly worded proposition has modified that law to the point that it is no longer worth the paper it was written on and we will soon be releasing third strikers back onto our streets. How do you think that is going to work out for all of us?

 

In 2011 we worked the halls of the California State Legislature to include Internet identifiers as a component of sex offender registration, only to run into a brick wall at every turn. In response we fought for Proposition 35, the CASE Act, on the November 2012 ballot and the people voted overwhelmingly to enact the policies that our politicians refused to ratify. More than 81% of voters agreed that internet identifiers should be included as a component of the sex offender registry. Yet only a few weeks ago the ACLU challenged the constitutionality of Prop 35 in the Superior Court of the State of California with false claims and phony arguments.

 

All of this tells me that we need to take responsibility for our own safety. I’m not suggesting that we arm ourselves to the teeth with handguns, rifles, assault weapons, or rocket propelled grenade launchers as some horrible old men in legislatures throughout the United States have been hinting at in response to Connecticut’s Sandy Hook massacre. Instead, we need to arm ourselves with knowledge, technology, and philanthropy. There are numerous child-safe technology solutions in the marketplace. Some work, and some don’t. However, all of them existed in a vacuum until today.

 

For more than a year now, the KlaasKids Foundation has been working with vendors, inventors and visionaries to produce a comprehensive suite of technology and funding tools to address the challenges faced by America’s small children and their families. Today, I’d like to introduce you to the fruits of our labor.

 

Cocoon for KlaasKids uses Cloud Technology to protect children from predators and abusive marketers. Polly’s Guardian Angel is a parent initiated missing child alert smart phone application. It provides the direct support of the KlaasKids Polly Center response team. The LEO Wristwatch is GPS, cell phone technology that cannot be as easily discarded as Sierra LaMar’s GPS enabled cell phone if your child has been stolen. And finally, the Klaas Family Housing Fund provides a new and innovative way to assist the families of missing children with housing expenses.