Published - January, 16, 2006
Victims' fathers to share experiences
Marc Klaas and Mark Lunsford don't want other parents to experience the pain they know.
On Saturday, Klaas and Lunsford, whose children were abducted and killed, will speak to Pensacola Bay Area parents about how to keep their children safe.
Jessica Lunsford, 9, of Homosassa was kidnapped in 2005, and Polly Klaas, 12, of Petaluma, Calif., was kidnapped in 1993.
"We'll be tackling issues dealt with from the family's kitchen table to the president's Cabinet," said Klaas, who founded the KlaasKids Foundation in 1994.
"A lot of the legislative changes that happened in the last 10, 13 years were brought about by these people. You don't get that kind of group together that often."
The KlaasKids Foundation, which is sponsoring the local series of events, is a nationwide program for parents with missing children.
A child-safety seminar on Saturday at Hillcrest Baptist Church is open to the public and free. A training session for law officers that features Steve Thomas, lead investigator in the JonBenet Ramsey case, will be conducted Friday.
People need to learn that conventional wisdom in child safety doesn't always hold true, said Brad Dennis, director of search operations for the KlaasKids Search Center in Pensacola.
"People think that when a child is missing, they have to wait 24 hours before notifying law enforcement. That's not true. The sooner the better."
Even if a child is missing for only two hours, law enforcement is required to enter the information into a National Crime Information Center computer so that law officers in other areas can keep an eye out, he said.
Seventy-four percent of children who are abducted and later found murdered are killed in the first three hours after being taken, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Telling your children not to talk to strangers doesn't necessarily work because most often children are abducted by family members or familiar faces in the community, Dennis said.
Steve Sharp, chief of security for the Escambia County School District, will be at the town hall meeting Saturday night to talk about what the district does to keep children safe.
Background checks of about 750 school vendors required by the Lunsford Act resulted in about 50 rejections from school property, Sharp said.
"We're catching some folks here that don't need to be around our kids," he said.