[Hpn] AMBER ALERTS REMIND US THAT VIGILANCE HAS ITS REWARDS

William Charles Tinker wtinker@metrocast.net
Sun, 28 Aug 2005 07:55:02 -0400


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Cohen: Amber Alerts remind us that vigilance has its rewards


The sign blinked ominously over Interstate 81. It appeared again over Route 
17. I was driving to Apalachin over the weekend when I saw the Amber Alert. 
We were to look for a black truck with Alabama plates. Someone's child was 
at risk.








      ELIZABETH COHEN Close to Home





I could see the other drivers in the cars beside me take note of it. You sit 
a little straighter after you see an Amber Alert, a nationwide system that 
rapidly distributes information about children who are missing or at risk. 
Your face changes somehow. Sometimes, without even consciously knowing it, 
you may place your hand over your mouth, in an innate portrait of horror. 
But the biggest thing that happens when you see an Amber Alert is inside 
your gut. You feel sick: There are people who purposely hurt and kill 
children.

Does it happen more now than years ago? There are scholars and experts, 
including the prestigious Poynter Institute, intent on telling us no, that 
the media "just focus on it" -- it being child abductions -- more now, and 
especially on slow news days and make it seem like it is epidemic. In fact, 
they report, most missing children are not stranger abductions but runaways.

Who cares? One child is too many when it comes to abduction, rape or murder. 
And by focusing on this problem, we've now got Amber Alerts, and we can 
catch these creeps.

Don't tell me it isn't a problem, either. Just last week a Smyrna man was 
charged with three counts of second-degree rape, three counts of 
second-degree sexual abuse and three counts of endangering the welfare of an 
11-year-old girl.

And then there's James Gilkeson, our neighbor from Kirkwood, whom police 
arrested when he reportedly tried to abduct a 10-year-old girl in Syracuse. 
Concerned residents stopped him. And I'll wager a bet that it was the 
"excessive media attention" to child abduction that sensitized those 
residents to look for strange behavior. They did not mind their own business 
because now, since the media have excessively focused on child abduction, we 
all know that children are all of our business. Gilkeson has since been 
charged with possessing child pornography on his home computer, and also 
charged with distributing it.

One valid criticism of media attention to missing children is that it is 
often white middle-class children who get the press. This is clearly a 
problem. Every missing child deserves a news spot, every day, until he/she 
is found.

Concerned residents show us how we can all be responsible for all of our 
children. Not just the ones who are biologically ours, or our same skin 
color or race. And when we care, we can actually stop a crime before there's 
a need for an Amber Alert.

And Amber Alerts do work. The good news story of last week was when a 
7-year-old girl considered in danger was recovered at the Oakdale Mall.

In the Syracuse case, thank God for the mother and the Syracuse Public Works 
employee who police say stopped Gilkeson. And thank God, also, for John 
Walsh, a national media star now, who lost his own son, Adam, to a predator 
and went on a media blitzkrieg to stop this from happening to others. The 
guy would make a terrific president. Gets things done, saves lives, cares 
and is capable of putting into place a national organization that stops 
crime. It's a pretty good resume.

He knows what we all believe, deep down. That there cannot be "excessive 
attention" to child predation in a world where Jessica Lunsford can be 
abducted and buried alive by a man who lived across her street.

Every time I see her face on TV, I fall apart. Don't you?



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Take precautions
Next Saturday, Sept. 3, you can do your part to help stop predators by 
receiving your free child ID kit, which includes DNA technology to identify 
your child, a place to keep an identifying recent photo and a special 
resource book with safety tips, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at any Wal-Mart store 
nationwide.

I know I'll be there.

Cohen's column appears Sundays. E-mail her at ecohen@pressconnects.com.



www.newhampshirehomeless.org

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