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Picayune PD adds third child abduction program

To help protect children in the community the Picayune Police Department has added a third program to help recover kidnapped children.

Two such reported incidents have taken place in Picayune within the past five years. In both cases they ended with recovery of the child.

On July 2, 2003 a child was reported missing in the Cooper Road area, according to police reports.

The incident was called into the department at about 9:12 p.m. that day by a resident who stated she let her then seven year-old daughter ride her bike in the area of Blue Spruce Apartments. The girl’s mother became concerned when her daughter did not return and began to search for her.

During a search for the girl, the mother found the girl’s bike parked outside an apartment at the Blue Spruce Apartment building, which turned out to be the apartment where the girl was being held.

After checking apartments in the area asking if they had seen her daughter she contacted the police. Officers searched the adjacent woods and checked with the residents of every apartment at the complex, except for one. In that last apartment officers could see a man in the apartment but when they knocked on the door, he would not answer. Police Chief Jim Luke said he also saw a female child in the apartment with the man. When Luke looked at a picture of the missing girl he determined that the missing child was in the apartment. Officers entered the apartment through the back door, took custody of the suspect, identified as Van Finch, then 64, of 597 Carroll St. and returned the girl to her mother.

Finch was charged with kidnapping, rape with intent to ravish and aggravated assault.

In a separate incident on March 14, 2007, a child was left inside a vehicle while the mother went inside a local gas station to pay for gasoline. The woman left her child and her car keys inside the car. A New Orleans resident was at the gas station at the time and after engaging in an argument with his girlfriend jumped into the woman’s car and took off. The man, identified as Corey L. Rankins, 24, left his girlfriend behind as he stole the car.

Picayune Police Department notified all surrounding departments, including New Orleans. The child was later turned into the New Orleans Police Department, unharmed, by Rankin’s aunt. Rankin was later caught riding a bike in a New Orleans neighborhood.

According to a press release issued from the department, when a child is reported missing time is the greatest enemy to law enforcement. With each passing hour the likelihood of a safe recovery of the missing child decreases.

In an effort to ensure a high level of preparedness for child abduction cases, the Picayune Police Department will implement the Lost Child Alert Technology Resource called LOCATER.

There are many challenges law enforcement personnel face during missing child cases, the release states. One of those challenges involves collecting and distributing descriptive information of the missing child. LOCATER was created to provide the necessary computer hardware and software needed to rapidly distribute that information of the missing child to other law enforcement agencies, the media and the public.

Although it was developed for producing posters of missing children, the technology could also be used to locate missing vehicles, wanted persons and to issue crime alerts, the release states.

“The Picayune Police Department is very aware of the need for an alert system, in the event of missing child, as we have experienced this type of situation. Our department has a standard operational procedure in the case of a missing child where we utilize A Child is Missing Program, a national notification network, along with the Amber Alert program. We welcome the addition of this LOCATER program and in the rare case a child from our city should go missing, the police department will again do all it can to ensure the safe recovery through use of all the programs available,” Luke said in the release.

The department is pleased to work with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to implement LOCATER. NCMEC has found that when pictures of missing children or abductors are made available to the public one in six children is recovered as a direct result.

NCMEC is a private 501(c)(3) non profit organization. Working in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, NCMEC is the national resource center and clearing house on missing and exploited child cases, the release states. For information about the many free services NCMEC offers law enforcement personnel visit www.missingkids.com. For more information about LOCATER call 1-877-446-2632 ext. 6389 or visit www.locaterposters.org.