A New Concept: The Polly Center

Brad’s Suburban

KlaasKids strives to remain on the cutting edge of child safety. To that end, on July 23, 2011 we introduced a revolutionary concept in child abduction and exploitation response. The Polly Center, located in Pensacola, Florida is a proactive missing child resource center. It was created to provide a preemptive response network to serve families of missing persons. This regional resource center will also provide abuse prevention programs for children and services for victims of exploitation.

 Responding to a missing person case is akin to communities responding to natural disasters. When a 911 call is placed reporting a missing person, the response must happen very quickly as time lost can be critical and even life threatening. So it is with natural disasters: communities must respond from the ground up. Currently, most communities have an emergency disaster response plan which consists of pre-planning and the identification of resources necessary to respond to a give disaster. The Polly Center will mirror that approach as it applies to missing person and human trafficking cases.

The concept behind the Polly Center is based on events that happened and surrounded my daughter Polly’s case in 1993. The entire community of Petaluma: business; churches; individuals; fraternal organizations all came together to assist in building the search effort for Polly. For the past 18-years KlaasKids has been responding to communities that are grappling with predatory or highly suspicious missing child cases. However, each time that we respond we have to invent the wheel all over again by locating relevant resources. With the Polly Center much of that work will already be in place and resources will be put on alert to respond as necessary.

A preemptive response plan includes creating key partnerships with law enforcement, businesses, civic organizations and churches willing to participate during the search for a missing person or willing to assist in the rescue and recovery of victims of exploitation these partnerships allow the Polly Center to create a response framework prior to a missing response or rescue attempt.

Currently, we have the support of local authorities including the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office.
Several agreements have been established with key organizations. California based BeyondMissing will provide parents with a parent flyer tool. They will be able to upload pictures, fill out form fields and quickly create a professional English or Spanish language missing child flyer that can be shared via fax or email. The Florida Coalition against Human Trafficking will provide assistance in identifying and placing victims. The Gulf Coast Kids House, a Children’s Advocacy Center, will provide services to child abuse victims. Area Search and Rescue teams will provide professional services in the search for missing persons

The Polly Center is the brainchild of Brad Dennis, the KlaasKids Foundation National Director of Search Operations. Brad, who has more than 25-years of experience in search and rescue and crisis management, has managed search efforts for more than 180-missing and exploited children throughout the United States, including the community assisted search effort following Polly’s 1993 kidnapping. Most volunteer search protocols currently being used were developed by Brad during the search for Polly.

If KlaasKids finds success with the Pensacola based Polly Center we intend to replicate the template throughout the United States. We know that such an ambitious vision will be difficult to implement and will take time, but we believe that our children are worth it. Don’t you?

Why America’s Long Haul Truckers Deserve TV Service

This evening Nancy Grace made a call to action to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the agency that regulates broadcast media, to grant a license so that America’s vast long haul trucking community could at long last be able to watch a suite of television options during their federally mandated rest stops. Climb on board and demonstrate your support of this important initiative by letting the FCC know how you feel.

Since 2004, the KlaasKids Foundation has been aggressively participating in a case at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in Washington, DC. KlaasKids wants the FCC to approve a proposal that will unleash major resources for the cause to recover missing children and adults at no cost to Government.  The case has suffered from prolonged delays, and we need your voice to arouse the FCC from its slumber and jar it to action.

The proposal we support has been made to the FCC by Clarity Media Systems, LLC, a subsidiary of Flying J Inc., the company that owns and operates hundreds of Flying J travel plazas across the country’s highways. The U.S. Department of Transportation requires America’s 2-million long haul truck drivers to spend 10-hours or more per day resting. Flying J provides a variety of vital services to long haul truckers making it a popular and viable rest destination. However, one service that truck drivers have never been able to access is basic television service. Clarity has proposed to provide 70 channels of television programming – local stations, national cable and satellite channels, and its own specially originated program channels to entertain and inform long haul truckers during federally mandated rest stops.

In other words two million people, four million eyes that could immediately respond to word that a person is missing and seek to locate them are not getting that word.  Clarity’s proposal will enable these drivers — who are out on the roads and at highway rest stops, convenience stores, gas stations, and fast food restaurants where persons on the run frequently go – to receive news flashes, special reports, and full-length programming about unresolved missing person cases from local television stations, national cable and satellite channels, and Clarity channels.

Of particular note, Clarity proposes to originate a special Public Safety and Alert Channel that will focus on the plights of missing persons. With my assistance, programming will be produced to highlight high profile cases like the disappearance of Morgan Harrington from a concert at Virginia Tech University on October 20, to low profile cases that failed to receive media attention to missing adults who are excluded by their age from the Amber Alert system. Clarity will make this special channel the default channel that every truck driver sees when he turns on the television set while at rest in his cab and that plays continuously in the common areas of the highway travel plazas.

I know firsthand the valuable role that informed long haul drivers can play in fulfilling our mission to recover missing persons.  When Polly was abducted, the long-haul driver community made a point to circulate her poster broadly in the hope that she could be recovered. Had the service that Clarity proposes been available when Morgan Harrington disappeared from a rock concert tens of thousands of long-haul drivers in Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, DC, Maryland and other surrounding or regional states could have been alerted and on the lookout for her immediately following her abduction.  Instead, her whereabouts remain unknown without this effort even being made.  There are thousands of similar examples.

In short, with Clarity’s programming in the cabs of their trucks and at their rest stops during their government mandated rest periods, professional long-haul drivers will become an army of millions of law-enforcement-minded first responders to disseminate vital information to their colleagues, apprehend abductors, and recover our missing dear ones. 

Please add your voice to the wake-up call that we will soon be sending to the FCC demanding that it stop sitting on this important case and approve Clarity’s proposal.  To do so, please select this link, type in your own words the reasons why it is important for the FCC to act immediately to make this public safety service a reality, and return to me.  We will bring your words to the direct attention of the FCC Chairman and Commissioners right away. 

Social Networking and Missing Kids

Not every parent has the good fortune to have their missing child profiled on television or in nationally distributed magazines. Most families must find other ways to raise awareness and distribute information about their missing children.
Social networks have a reach that extends around the world with hundreds of millions of profiles, and the ability to embrace causes. These invaluable resources provide no-cost opportunities that were inconceivable when Polly was kidnapped in 1993.
If your child is missing, you can take advantage of opportunities available from Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and YouTube.
These free sites enable you to create informational profiles of your missing child. You can post articles, photographs, testimonials, blogs, and videos. By organizing your profile and editing content to create a compelling presence, you can link and interact with vast networks of individuals and organizations interested in your issue. Cross-pollinating with true crime websites like Websleuths provides you with allies who are dedicated to maintaining interest in and solving ongoing cases.
A Southern California mother whose two children were reported missing 15 years ago tracked them down in Florida using Facebook. The children’s father had taken off with them in 1995 when they were still toddlers, but in March 2010 the mother found her daughter’s profile after searching for her name on the social networking site. My friend Robert McConnell used Facebook to locate his daughter, who was illegally kidnapped to Indonesia by a noncustodial mother in 2003. Personally, I regularly use my Facebook profile picture to post photos of America’s missing.
Child abduction is a big problem in China, with thousands of children disappearing each year. According to the Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs, as many as 1.5 million children are beggars. Most of them have been forced into servitude and many of them are kidnap victims. A viral Twitter (Weibo) campaign, launched on January 25 by social scientist Yu Jianrong, encourages citizens to post photos of child beggars and compare them with photos of missing children. More than 220,000 netizens responded and so far six children have been reunited with their families.

In an unrelated case, 33-year-old Peng Gaofeng recovered his son who was kidnapped in 2008 through a micro blog. When law enforcement efforts proved futile, Peng posted his son’s picture on Weibo. A newspaper reporter tweeted about Peng’s micro blog campaign to his 110,000 followers. It was reposted more than 5,000 times before a citizen compared the missing boy’s photo to a child who looked just like him. It turned out to be the same child. The reunion video posted on the Internet became an online sensation and captured the attention and respect of authorities. 

Of course, liabilities do exist. Information may not be accurate or time sensitive. A visible time stamp on missing flyers will mitigate social networking shortcomings. Outdated information posted on social networking sites can be distracting. Time and resources are wasted when misinformation passes from hand to hand – Particularly if the case has been resolved. Before information is distributed it should be verified with Law Enforcement or National Crime Information Center.
Overall, the assets outweigh the liabilities. The Internet empowers the families of missing persons. With new and innovative applications constantly in development, the possibilities inherent in social network websites and other online innovations are limited only by our imaginations.