Jackson County Sheriff's Department heads team to seach for missing kids

The Jackson County Sheriff's Department is now the lead agency in a regional child abduction response team made up of police, mental health specialists and prosecutors from five Southern Oregon counties.

The Southern Oregon Regional Child Abduction Response Team was recertified by the National AMBER Alert Program this month, with Jackson County police taking the reins. The team, started in Klamath County in 2010, is one of 20 such nationally recognized teams in the country and the only team in Oregon, officials said.

Jackson County sheriff's Capt. Monte Holloway said the department is now prepared to lead a rapid, multi-agency response when a child is abducted or missing. Officers have trained and updated policy.

The department also has implemented a regional AMBER Alert call center and would provide people to help get state and federal officials up to speed when an AMBER Alert is issued.

"We hope that we never have to activate a CART team in our area, (but) we want to be prepared," Holloway said. "The bottom line is minutes matter. The clock is ticking."

Jackson and Klamath counties have worked together on the regional team since 2010, but last year, the Klamath County Sheriff's Department asked Jackson County take the lead role due to economic woes.

"We just needed to make this happen. We hope it never happens, but we prepare for worst-case scenarios," Holloway said.

CART officials said the training and resources came in handy two weeks ago when two Eagle Point teenage girls were reported missing during a visit to Ashland, even though there wasn't a full activation of the CART team.

"We didn't know what those circumstances were at first," Holloway said.

Both girls had transmitted messages to family and friends leading some to believe the girls were suicidal. Both girls were found at the White Rabbit trailhead in the hills above Ashland and rescued.

The training will continue this fall with a mock AMBER Alert exercise planned for the regional team.

— Ryan Pfeil

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