HANCOCK COUNTY, Ind.– Dispatchers at Hancock County’s 911 call center never know who will be on the other end of the line or what danger they may find themselves in when a call comes in to their system.
That dilemma may be even more difficult to navigate when a child is involved, as a youngster can be too scared or inarticulate to explain their need for help.
Now the dispatch center has received certification from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children Missing Kid Readiness Program for training and policies its already put in place.
“Personally as a mom I thought it was necessary to identify potentially dangerous situations and how to respond to those. The worst thing we could do is not know how to respond to those situations,” said dispatcher Lacey Ogden. “It absolutely encompasses every type of missing child situation whether it’s a child who’s wandered off, a child who’s been abducted, trafficking, basically any situation where a child has gone missing, this training encompasses that and gives us a standpoint on what our role is in this situation.”
Ogden said dispatchers are trained to listen for “red flag” information that could indicate the child’s danger.
“Knowing what we know before we answer that phone call is gonna help us gather the most important information and then sort out the information that we may not need,” said Ogden.
Hancock County Prosecutor Brent Eaton said while he has not prosecuted any human trafficking cases involving children, just knowing that 911 dispatchers have been trained to recognize dangers to youngsters from the first call for help will assist detectives as they investigate a case and send it to him for prosecution.
“I definitely think of having that from the tip of the spear with the 911 center and having maybe a heads up on the call to begin with will give us a way to maybe look at those calls a little bit differently, maybe look at some things we may not if we did not have that information,” said Eaton.
Eaton is part of a campaign to raise money for Zoe’s Place, a safe house for endangered children where youngsters can meet with investigators and therapists to talk about the trauma they’ve suffered.