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The Investigation of Missing and Exploited Children

by Joseph A. Travers, CPI, CCDI, CMECI

Saved in America (SIA) is a California Non-Profit Organization of current and former Police Officers and Navy SEALs/Marine Raiders turned licensed and insured Private Investigators who, without charge, assist parents and Law Enforcement in locating runaway, missing & exploited children. Since December 2014, SIA has assisted in the investigation and locating more than 260 children nationwide. 60% of all recovered children were found before being trafficked.

SIA Investigative Process
Saved In America cases are structured in 6 steps, R.E.S.C.U.E. (See Figure 1). In all the following cases you will see one or more of these investigative steps used. All SIA Investigators are highly trained former police officers, private investigators, and former special operators (Navy SEALs, Marine Raiders, British SAS) who are both insured and licensed by the California State Bureau of Security & Investigative Services. SIA’s staff also includes Social Networking Investigators, Case Managers, and Attorneys. All SIA Staff and Operators are Certified Missing & Exploited Child Investigators (CMECI).

Step 1: RECORD
Initial Parental/Custodial Contact/Power of Attorney/Gather Intel/Plan and Execute:
SIA receives cases in one of two different ways; either a member of the public informs SIA or a parent(s) or guardian will contact SIA. From this point, SIA contacts parents for information on missing children from NCMEC (The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children). Additionally, SIA conducts missing children investigations by geographical location by searching the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children website, MissingKids.org.

Once the parent/guardian is contacted, an application for services and power of attorney (POA) is received. The POA allows the SIA team to coordinate with law enforcement, other government agencies, and rehabilitation services in relation to the missing person.

Figure 1

Figure 1: SIA 6 R.E.S.C.U.E. Steps

Initiate Social Networking Investigation Matrix/ Incorporate Intelligence/ Develop Law Enforcement Liaison:
After collecting the requested information from the parent(s), the case is then forwarded to a Social Networking Investigator, a specially trained SIA investigator collects and processes digital information looking for leads.

The Social Networking Investigator targets leads from social networking sites for workable intelligence. The Case Manager then combines all intelligence to find workable leads. The Law Enforcement Liaison contacts local law enforcement to advise them of the case findings.

Prepare Case Management System/ Incorporate Social Investigation/ Develop Investigative Leads for further Review/ Investigation:
Saved In America’s Workable Intelligence Investigators confirms leads from social networking and parental/ witness information and tips received from the public. The intelligence is then given to a SIA Team consisting of former law enforcement agents, or the Workable Intelligence Investigators. The team will work to confirm or discredit the leads. Once confirmed, the intelligence goes to the Case Manager.

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Confirmation of Investigative Leads/ Coordinate with Law Enforcement Liaison /Develop Recovery Plan:
In the Case Management step, the Saved In America Case Manager collects all evidence from SIA investigation teams and organizes reports, photos, video and other investigative intelligence. The Case Manager assists the Social Network Investigator and maintains the Investigative Case Package. (See Figure 2: Saved in America Sample Investigative Case Package flowchart by Tech Ops Coordinator, Frank Bonniwell).

Step 5. UNITE
Brief Recovery Plan/ Execute Identification/ Notify Law Enforcement and Execute recovery:
The Actionable Intelligence Investigators consist of SIA’s former military special operators (majority Navy SEALs, Raiders, and British SAS). When the Workable Intelligence Investigators have identified the victim(s), suspect(s), or an immediate associate, they pass the information on to the Actionable Intelligence Investigators. The teams will use the workable intelligence, verified by the Case Manager, to locate the child. Once located, the team immediately coordinates with law enforcement for the rescue of the child and the arrest of the predator(s).

Figure 2: Saved in America flowchart created by Tech Ops Coordinator, Frank Bonniwell

Recovery & Rehabilitation:
The Actionable Intelligence Team, made up of Actionable Intelligence Investigators, will transport the child to a pre-approved rehabilitation center, police station, or return them to their home/family, in coordination with the parent/guardian(s).

Follow-up Investigation and Civil/ Criminal Prosecution:
The Case Manager will continue to accumulate follow up intelligence to supply to law enforcement for criminal prosecution and to SIA attorneys for civil action.

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Why it Matters
Child sex trafficking has grown significantly over the years. What once was thought as only a problem within developing nations, has become all too real for the United States. SIA not only helps get these missing and exploited children back, but helps the children long after they are returned to safety.

SIA will help lessen the effects of sex trafficking, and hopefully help to prevent these atrocities from occurring.

About the Author
Joseph Anthony Travers is a member of the Human Trafficking Information Exchange Group and Human Smuggling and Trafficking Center, Washington DC. Travers was the former President of CALI, the Largest Private Investigation Association in the World, where he received the President’s Award in 2014 and the Investigator of the Year Award in 2015. Travers has assisted parents and law enforcement in recovering over 270 young girls vulnerable to child sex traffickers since 2014.

We’re always listening: Send your story submission/idea to the Editor: kendra@orep.org.

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