PDA

View Full Version : US Police proceedures (child abduction)



Rammstein
08-04-2010, 03:05 PM
Hi all - brand new to this forum, as you can see. Found it sort of hap-hazardly (which, as we all know, means Google), and I'm very happy that I did.

I'm currently writing a novel which involves an abduction of a child from a hotel room in the state of Hawaii. Now being Swedish, I have a pretty dim concept of US Police proceedures so naturally I have a few blanks to fill in.

The outline is this: a 4 year-old girl disappears from her hotel room, where she is sleeping while her parents are out dining at a nearby restaurant. The mother goes up to check on her half-way through the evening, and that's when she discovers that the child is missing. At first, the parents and thier company believe her to be wandering the hotel, as their daughter is very curious and likes to go exploring.

Later (perhaps an hour or so into the search) a man claims he witnessed an older man carrying a sleeping child to his car and speeding away.

What happens then? I imagine the local police dept would send someone over to initiate an investigation, but I have no idea who gets involved, and at which stage. I've also read about the FBI getting involved, and they probably will be since it will become obvious that the girl is taken to the mainland and gone on even further than that.

What I wish for is someone to pick up this thread and start a dialogue with me, sort of an interview via this forum or via mail. That way I can probably not only get good answers - I probably have a better shot at asking the right questions ;)

Thanks for your time - I'm looking forward to any kind of response, kind forum-dwellers and fellow writers.

Guardian
08-04-2010, 03:15 PM
Amber Alert is the first thing that comes to mind


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AMBER_Alert
The decision to declare an AMBER Alert is made by the police (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Police) organization investigating the abduction. Public information in an AMBER Alert usually consists of the name and description of the abductee, a description of the suspected abductor, and a description and license plate (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/License_plate) number of the abductor's vehicle (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automobile), if available.I don't know if hotels do a Code Adam at all, but many establishments do.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Code_Adam

I remember reading that roads can be blocked off, but damn if I remember where it was. If they have a strong idea of where the kidnapper is going, like a certain highway, especially that it was a kidnapping, then they might have a road block where cars are checked before being allowed to pass. And obviously they will be sending out the info that a child was abducted, with a description of the child and what he or she was wearing so that people can help find the child. Amber alert is especially for if the child is at serious risk of being hurt or killed.

Two issues I have with your scenario though. 1. I'm not sure if her parents would really leave a 4 year old sleeping in a hotel room to go to a restaurant. Actually, no way. 2. I don't think that the child would keep sleeping while a man carried her off.

alleycat
08-04-2010, 03:23 PM
Not related to your question, but the first thing that strikes me as odd is the parents leaving a four-year-old alone in a hotel room.

The FBI has authority to investigate kidnappings, and would certainly get involved in a case that possibly involves multiple states. Since someone saw a person taking a child and speeding away, the FBI would probably be called in quickly.

Another problem I see is someone seeing the kidnapping and then the kidnapper and child making it to the mainland. In the scenario you have, it would be hard for someone to make it through airport security, as the police would be notified very early in the crime. You could make it work, but you would need to add some details that makes it plausible.

Rammstein
08-04-2010, 03:27 PM
Wow, that was fast. I like where this is going. Just to answer your two issues:

1) My inspiration for this adbuction actually a true story: the abduction of Madeleine McCann (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madeleine_McCann) back in 2007. The parents left her (and her sibling, actually) in bed in the apartment they had rented, left the door unlocked, and went out to dine at a restaurant very close by. They took turns checking on the kids. At some point during the evening, a witness saw a man carrying a child walking away from the building.

I'm having trouble envisioning parents actually doing something like this too, but there we are...

2) I should have written that she's sedated and thus appears to be sleeping.

Guardian
08-04-2010, 03:30 PM
Yes. FBI take over once the crime has crossed state lines. I agree with alleycat that getting the child over water would be very difficult because security would likely be alerted, as well as anyone who can see the news. It would be a bit more plausible if he drove across a border.

Of course there are things the kidnapper can do to make it harder to be found. For example, a woman once dyed the hair of a child to try to change his appearance, but they still found the child (don't ask me to cite that, I don't think I can).

Edit: Leaving her alone could work, then. Stupid parents spells disaster, and unfortunately it's not unheard of. Just make sure they are reprimanded for leaving her alone. People would be all over that shiz.

alleycat
08-04-2010, 03:33 PM
Yes, parents do things like that all the time, usually bad parents. This would make the parents unsympathetic characters (at least at first), so you would need to be careful how you play this (whether they are good parents who just happen to make a mistake and now feel guilty, or bad parents who think more about their own enjoyment than their child's welfare).

Rammstein
08-04-2010, 03:37 PM
Another problem I see is someone seeing the kidnapping and then the kidnapper and child making it to the mainland. In the scenario you have, it would be hard for someone to make it through airport security, as the police would be notified very early in the crime. You could make it work, but you would need to add some details that makes it plausible.


I thought of that too, and what I'm envisioning is actually transporting her by boat. I know that's a long shot too, seeing as Hawaii is very far away from anything else.

What I perhaps also need to mention is that this abduction is a job commissioned by someone with a lot of money and resources at hand. For instance, the original abductor actually delivers the child to someone else within a couple of hours. This someone takes her to the mainland (not necessarily though, he could be going somewhere else in the pacific and from there on to Europe, which is the final destination).

Why did I choose Hawaii as a setting? If the kid's going to Europe, why not have someone pick her up in Europe? Yeah... I know. I'm still learning to deal with it :D


Yes, parents do things like that all the time, usually bad parents. This would make the parents unsympathetic characters (at least at first), so you would need to be careful how you play this (whether they are good parents who just happen to make a mistake and now feel guilty, or bad parents who think more about their own enjoyment than their child's welfare).

Yes, they are unsympathetic characters. But most of the action of the story happens 20 years later, when they've had ample time to stew in their guilt.

Guardian
08-04-2010, 03:39 PM
Hmm, I dunno about boat. Maybe if he managed to hide the child away. Boats take a long time to travel and if the ship got word of an abduction they would be noticing any little girls. Course he could always stick her in a big luggage box and hope no one looks inside.

alleycat
08-04-2010, 03:40 PM
I agree with alleycat that getting the child over water would be very difficult because security would likely be alerted, as well as anyone who can see the news. It would be a bit more plausible if he drove across a border.
With most other states it would be fairly easy to work around this. But Hawaii is a LONG way out there from anywhere. Even if the kidnapper managed to get the child on a flight, the authorities are going to have hours to put up an alert at the destination airport.

I have an idea that might work. I'll think about it and post back if I think it would help make the storyline plausible.

By the way, I might be replying while you're posting, so I'm sometimes behind in reading your posts. I see you're well aware of the difficulty of getting a kidnapped child off of Hawaii to the mainland.

Guardian
08-04-2010, 03:44 PM
Definitely, I didn't think about Hawaii flights at the time. Any flights coming in from Hawaii would ESPECIALLY be checked, I think. If they weren't, that's just silly nonsense. I think it'd be pretty easy for them to slow people down as they got off the plane, too.

alleycat
08-04-2010, 03:48 PM
One thing about a storyline with the difficulties that Guardian and I have mentioned, if you can come up with plausible and realistic details that make a story like this work, it can often lead to a very interesting story. The fact that the crime was next to impossible makes the villain that much more dangerous and the work of the protagonist that much harder. The first example that comes to mind is The Taking of Pelham 123; I mean, who would have considered hijacking a subway train for money--it's not like someone could fly it to Cuba. But they made it work (at least enough in the original movie).

Rammstein
08-04-2010, 03:49 PM
Hmm, I dunno about boat. Maybe if he managed to hide the child away. Boats take a long time to travel and if the ship got word of an abduction they would be noticing any little girls. Course he could always stick her in a big luggage box and hope no one looks inside.
Now that's cruel...



I have an idea that might work. I'll think about it and post back if I think it would help make the storyline plausible.


I'm still working on it, but I'm not too concerned with what sounds plausible enough per se - actually, the more far-fetched the better, short of someone hiring aliens in a UFO to whisk the child away. The reason for this is... well... my secret until the novel is published (and for you guys translated into English)... But I would be extremely grateful for any input that would help me make it sound doable, if not plausible.

Sailboat, for instance...

Guardian
08-04-2010, 03:55 PM
Ah, but kidnapping a little girl is cruel. Now I imagine he wants her alive for some reason, maybe to sell her soul, otherwise I would recommend that he could cut her up and put her in some smaller containers, assuming that he didn't pass through any x-rays like at an airport. Um, yeah.

It would be more doable if the parents don't suspect right away that their child has been kidnapped, so the man has more time to get away. That or they end up looking in the wrong direction, too locally for instance, under the assumption that the child/kidnapper didn't get far and realize later that their child is long gone.

Maybe even a private plane that takes off quickly under those circumstances and upon reaching their destination the child is taken by another person.

Additionally, if the plane goes to Europe as opposed to the US, there might be more confusion trying to get the message out to Europe. There are many countries they could land in, afterall, and perhaps they would suspect she was taken to the US.

dirtsider
08-04-2010, 04:14 PM
I was also thinking that the person behind the kidnapping, if he has a lot of money and resources at hand, would probably arrange for a private plane to get the child out of Hawaii as well as landing in a smaller, private airport, rather than the larger, public airports. Another thing you might want to think about is having the plane head west toward Asia, rather than east toward the US. That will cause more confusion, especially if they're flying in a private plane/jet.

RJK
08-04-2010, 05:53 PM
Hawaii is a long way from anywhere. You'd need a big plane with long legs. A plane like that would need a commercial airport to land. Unless the kidnapper is super rich and owns such a plane and has access to a private landing strip large enough to handle a plane that size, I'd wonder why he'd be kidnapping the girl. Money certainly wouldn't be the motivation.

Back to the original question. Honolulu PD (I'm assuming they're in Honolulu) would be the first to respond and set up the Amber Alert. Then Hawaii 50 would get involved to cover the rest of the state. The FBI would get involved in covering any common carriers and private ships or aircraft that have already left the state.

Security cameras would be checked all around the hotel to see if they caught the child being abducted. Then neighborhood canvassing would begin. There would be a long and detailed interview with the parents centering on why they left the child unattended. They wouldn't be ruled out as being suspects in the case.

SouthernFriedJulie
08-04-2010, 07:28 PM
This is very similar to the Madeleine Mcann incident.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disappearance_of_Madeleine_McCann

She was going to be 4 in a few days. Her parents left her unsupervised while they went to eat. The abductor was seen carrying her out.

**Edit- Whoops, didn't see the mention of this case in the other post. :-(

Rammstein
08-04-2010, 07:39 PM
I'd wonder why he'd be kidnapping the girl. Money certainly wouldn't be the motivation.

Right you are - money is not the issue. They are kidnapping the kid in order to use her for something (insert suspenseful music here).


Back to the original question. Honolulu PD (I'm assuming they're in Honolulu) would be the first to respond and set up the Amber Alert. Then Hawaii 50 would get involved to cover the rest of the state. The FBI would get involved in covering any common carriers and private ships or aircraft that have already left the state.

Security cameras would be checked all around the hotel to see if they caught the child being abducted. Then neighborhood canvassing would begin. There would be a long and detailed interview with the parents centering on why they left the child unattended. They wouldn't be ruled out as being suspects in the case.

Now, this is probably a silly question, but... who would be doing all this? I have no idea of PD hierarchy, ranks or anything. It's strictly speaking not necessary, but even if I don't stick it in there, I would probably be better off knowing about it when I write. So: Who's leading the investigation? Who's out knocking doors?

I have actually chosen Kailua on the Big Island as a setting, in part because I've actually been there, but also because I imagine that the resources available for this sort of investigation over there are lesser than in Honolulu during the critical time period (3-4 hours after the abduction). Could the police dept in the county of Hawaii be reinforced from say Honolulu?

Another question: when would this investigation end? They will never find the girl, and the closest they get to finding a culprit is a suspect who is later murdered while incarcerated. That the girl is taken to Europe will remain unknown - the trace starts and ends on Hawaii...

BTW, in the McCann case I mentioned earlier, the parents were indeed suspects at one point in the investigation, and I intend to include that in my story as well.

JMason
08-05-2010, 08:05 PM
Yes, they are unsympathetic characters. But most of the action of the story happens 20 years later, when they've had ample time to stew in their guilt.

Okay, so before I answer on police procedure, I need to know if the 20s years later is NOW and the kidnapping happened in 1990, or if the kidnapping is NOW and the action is in 2030.

That makes a big difference. :)

~G

Rammstein
08-05-2010, 09:28 PM
Okay, so before I answer on police procedure, I need to know if the 20s years later is NOW and the kidnapping happened in 1990, or if the kidnapping is NOW and the action is in 2030.

That makes a big difference. :)

~G

Good point. The 20 years later is 2027. So the kidnapping happens in 2007.

Horseshoes
08-05-2010, 09:57 PM
Mebbe think about changing the "police are called after an hour" bit.
For a missing four-year-old, fifteen minutes.
Maybe the police are the ones who scare up the witness who saw the man carrying the child.

As far as who's knocking on doors, everybody they can muster, every reservist. The off-going shift is held-over, the on-coming shift is brought in early. Yes, it'll become a Fed case, but the walking and knocking is largely accomplished by locals. When they need extra bodies, military, SAR volunteers, everybody takes a little sector. They start stopping everybody with a kid the right size.

Most hotel staff are redirected, too. They are going door to door in their own hotel, looking under every bed because it must be established that the child is not on the grounds. (Great for your scenario, since what actually happened is the bad guy walked right out, drove right to the airport, pulled her out now in a large suitcase where she was loaded onto the private Leer--in the cabin-and flew east.)

Meanwhile back at the hotel, they're at every guest room, asking every guest to open every large duffel bag. At the airport, every large box is opened.
All garbage cans in the area are checked. All of them.

Good luck with your story--sounds interesting.

frimble3
08-06-2010, 10:30 AM
How feasible would island-hopping by small float-plane or sea-plane be? Slower, but no need for airports, just island to island, until far enough away to evade questions and the police. Then, cross paths with the private jet, transfer the child, fly to Asia, and into Europe that way.

Tsu Dho Nimh
08-07-2010, 10:48 PM
Hi all - brand new to this forum, as you can see. Found it sort of hap-hazardly (which, as we all know, means Google), and I'm very happy that I did.
I'm currently writing a novel which involves an abduction of a child from a hotel room in the state of Hawaii. Now being Swedish, I have a pretty dim concept of US Police proceedures so naturally I have a few blanks to fill in.

I'm not as freaked out at the thought of parents at a quiet resort leaving a child sleeping while they go down for dinner as some, but what does your plot NEED to have happen? Where do you need the kidnapper to be caught?

Hawaii adds many complications to the kidnappers and the author - first of all which island is the hotel on? There are several islands.

Getting the girl off the island to the mainland USA (or any other continent) is going to be extremely difficult, because only a few types of planes carry enough fuel to make the trip, and they can check all the airports fairly easily. They also have to land somewhere.

http://www.aircraft-charter-world.com/airports/northamerica/hawaii.htm

The US Coast Guard and the local police (state police or city police or both) would be in boats, looking for boats, asking about boats, and searching the boats. Radar would be looking for planes, checking old radar tapes for traces of planes, and asking about planes.

Exit by boat would have to be ocean-going size, or be able to rendevous with one that was, say a fishing trawler. And every other boat out there would be looking for them - when there is a distress signal, all ships get it.

A smart kidnapper would not speed away, he would exit the parking lot at the usual speed and observe all the traffic rules, just being "normal".

If I wanted to kidnap a child off Hawaii, I would set up a cover story and have a family with several similar children staying at a rented house reasonably close, and drop the child there ... then give them all measles or chickenpox.

I would send off some flashy decoys in several directions by air and sea - like send a decoy male with a similar child off to LA - and arrange some fake sightings in the USA>

Later, much later, I would move the child off the island.

frimble3
08-08-2010, 12:13 AM
I like the decoy idea, especially as the villian apparently has money to hire them.

Rammstein
08-09-2010, 03:15 PM
As I said earlier, I'm more interested in what's doable, even if that means it is implausible and stretching the imagination. The sheer audacity is part of the appeal. The kidnapping in my story is just a prelude to something much much bigger and complex, and some of the other parts are fanciful flights of imagination as well (some downright silly).

Information technology is sometimes mentioned as something that has made the world seem smaller. Fast travel is another. My story is about turning technology into a form of religion, and a very analogue (so to speak) kidnapping method would be a nice counterpoint - especially as it needs to be succesful.

Nobody would ever think of kidnapping a child in Hawaii and make a getaway with the kid on a sailboat. Maybe that's why it just might work?

Tsu Dho Nimh
08-09-2010, 10:47 PM
They would be checking any sailboats they saw that were doing more than just "day sailing".

Your best bet would be to lay low for a while, send off some decoys and arrange the fake sightings (as if there wouldn't be plenty of them), and then quietly leave on a small boat that has been making overnight and day trips since before the kidnapping, with children on board. Meet up with a trawler, freighter or other sea-worthy ship and transfer the child. Return to shore with the rest of the kids.