Adam Walsh's Legacy

In December 2008, the Hollywood police officially closed their case concerning the abduction of 6-year-old Adam Walsh. This act officially brought an end to one of the most famous and influential missing child cases in history.

Adam disappeared at a local mall 27 years earlier. Police found his severed head two weeks after his disappearance, and they never found his body. Adam’s father, John Walsh, became an activist, and his involvement led to a number of advancements in police searches for missing persons and “most wanted” criminals: a national television program, the creation of missing persons units, legislation creating a national database devoted to missing children, fingerprinting programs, increased security in schools, and, of course, children’s faces on milk cartons.

The Walsh case has left a legacy of fear as well. There was a notable shift in the way parents viewed the world their children live in. Mount Holyoke College sociologist and criminologist John Moran explains that Walsh’s efforts have made children and adults exponentially more afraid of the world. Moran said in an AP story, “He ended up really producing a generation of cautious and afraid kids who view all adults and strangers as a threat to them and it made parents extremely paranoid about the safety of their children.”

Whether Walsh’s actions led to unnecessary paranoia is not the subject of this article. There is no debate that evil people do live in the world, and it is possible for parents to be prepared without being paranoid. Every parent should know what to do if their child goes missing and know how to prepare for this situation before it happens.

Gather Your Child’s Information Now

• Use a quality color photograph. This is the most important tool for recovering your child. Update the photograph every 6 months for children six and under and annually for older children. Use a head and shoulder photo and write the date on the back of the photo.
• Have additional photographs saved on a CD or flash drive so the police can download them immediately into a database.
• Properly taken fingerprints may also be an important tool to recover your child. Local police departments usually print children as a public service.
• Know where your child’s medical and dental records are kept. If you relocate, obtain copies and take them with you.
• Keep a list of phone numbers for any home your child may visit.

If Your Child Goes Missing

The first two hours after a child goes missing are critical. Do not delay; Immediately contact the police!

• Immediately report your child missing to the police. Provide them with your Missing Child Information Sheet. Also request investigators to enter your child into the National Crime Information Center’s (NCIC) missing persons file.
• Ask police to issue a “Be On The Lookout” bulletin (BOLO) and ask about the AMBER Alert Plan.
• Limit traffic in your home until police collect possible evidence. You should recheck your bedrooms, closets, and yard; however, don’t remove or touch any items prior to the police.
• Write a description of your child’s clothing and personal items he had when last seen.
• Make a list of friends, relatives, and neighbors who might have information or clues. Contact all of them.
More Resources Available
For more information, you can contact The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (1-800-THE-LOST) or visit

     Posted on January 3, 2009 at 11:50 pm | No comment

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