FBI leads child abduction training exercise for Tri-County police agencies

Practicing in real time keeps police prepared
Posted at 7:15 PM, Dec 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-08 19:15:21-05

Police teamed up with the FBI to prepare for every parent’s worst dream, a child abduction. Leaders put about 60 officers from the tri-county region through a real time scenario Thursday.

It started with Teri Lewis driving down her block and noticing something.

“A girl being pushed into a van,” explained the Weston woman, who was playing the role of a witness in the training exercise. 

Police and the FBI swarmed the area looking for a missing 13-year-old girl. They even called a news conference.

Officers called it the perfect chance to practice.

“It’s one of the most stressful things I will do as an agent,” explained James Lewis. He runs the FBI’s Violence Against Children squad in the region.

He is also a father, and said it’s a good thing bad guys don’t abduct children often. But that also means detectives are less familiar with how to handle those situations.

“Unfortunately many of these cases end in tragedy,” he pointed out.

By using role players and real mobile command centers, the scenario has a life-like feel. That way investigators don't miss a beat when a real child is missing.

“We’re really racing against the clock,” Lewis said. “And we're trying to preach to these detectives to have a plan in place in case of an emergency.”

Officers from Boca Raton, West Palm Beach and the sheriff’s office represented Palm Beach County in the exercise.

And even Teri, who acted as a witness, took something away.

“It's very important we look at our surroundings, pay attention as we drive down the street, if we see something we say something,” she said.

She's comforted knowing the good guys are ready should any parent's nightmare come true.