Carl Junction kicks off campaign to help find missing children
CARL JUNCTION, Mo. — There are days these parents will never forget.
Colleen Nick still remembers June 9, 1995, as the day her 6-year-old daughter, Morgan Nick, was abducted from a ballpark in Alma, Ark.
Shannon Tanner tears up when she thinks about March 10, 2005, the day her 13-year-old daughter, Bianca Piper, didn’t return from a walk in her Foley neighborhood.
Becky Klino still relives April 11, 2001, the day her 20-year-old son, Branson Perry, walked to the storage shed next to his family’s Skidmore home to put away a pair of jumper cables and was never seen again.
Now these parents have a new date to mark: Aug. 11, 2008, the day their children’s names and photographs were posted on the back of Carl Junction police cars for residents to see each day. It’s part of the “Picture Them Home” campaign, started by the Morgan Nick Foundation.
The Carl Junction Police Department is the first law-enforcement agency in Missouri to put the photos on its vehicles. The campaign is used in Arkansas and Oklahoma, and has reunited at least five children with their families.
“Why wouldn’t we do it?” Carl Junction police Chief Delmar Haase said Monday during the unveiling of the cars.
Each of Carl Junction’s six police cruisers features photos of two different missing children, the question “Have You Seen Me?” and a phone number to call with tips.
Colleen Nick, who helped create the campaign, said there is always the hope that someone will see a photo and call in a tip, and the missing child will return home. She said the photos also raise awareness within a community and combat apathy about crimes against children.
“We’ve grown complacent,” Nick said. “It’s like we expect that children are going to be abducted. That’s a very dangerous idea to come to as a nation.”
Nick said she gets e-mails and phone calls from mothers and fathers in states where the “Picture Them Home” campaign is in full swing. She said those parents thank her because every time they see a photo on a police car, it starts a conversation with their children about safety and strangers.
Klino said she hopes the picture of her son’s face on a Carl Junction police car will not only bring him home but also keep other families from having to go through the same pain.
“Before Branson disappeared, I didn’t think about it,” she said. “I might hear about a missing child on the news, but it might go in one ear and out the other. People need to know that it can happen to anyone at any time, regardless of race, age or gender.”
Although the campaign brings hope to parents who are still looking for their children, the photos can be painful. Tanner could not hold back tears Monday as she gazed at an image of what her daughter Bianca could look like today.
“No mother should have to look at their child’s picture like that and know that this is the only way you’re going to find your daughter,” Tanner said.
Haase, the father of five children, is impassioned by the campaign. He said he has spoken to police chiefs from Webb City, Joplin and Carthage about starting the program in their cities, and they’ve all been responsive. It’s inexpensive — about $100 a car, Haase said. Carl Junction civic organizations and residents sponsored several of the cars, lowering the cost for the department.