After seven years of training, the Pierce County Regional Child Abduction Response Team had its day Thursday.
The 110-member team responded to and investigated the mock kidnapping of a teenage girl in hopes of earning certification from the U.S. Department of Justice.
“Of course, none of this is real, but we’ll be prepared,” Fircrest Police Chief John Cheesman said. “God forbid, if we ever have an abduction, we’ll be prepared.”
If certified, the team would be the second in the state and the 21st nationwide. Tacoma police were the first to become federally certified. There are 101 teams across the country but few have been certified.
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Fifteen agencies pooled their resources to comprise the team, which started training in 2008.
It will take a month or so to learn whether the team will receive certification but one of two assessors, Colin Murphy, said the Pierce County team performed well.
“They did a great job today,” Murphy said. “They have great cooperation with local agencies coming together.”
The exercise started at 8 a.m. in Lakewood’s Harry Todd Park with two girls hanging out. A man in a gray van pulled up, snatched one of the girls and drove off amid screams.
A passer-by called 911 and the team jumped into action.
Patrol officers arrived and strung crime tape around the scene. A woman playing the girl’s mother sat with investigators. Search dogs combed the area for clues and a mock Amber Alert was sent out.
In the Department of Emergency Management, officers began combing through the girl’s social media pages and sorting through tips.
The number of actual child abductions in Pierce County in recent years was not available Thursday.
The team has never been formally activated but members have responded to several incidents, including the kidnappings of Kimmie Daily and Jenise Wright and incidents where runaways faked their abductions.
Kimmie, 16, went missing in August 2010 and was found dead days later near her South Hill home. During the search, CART scoured a three-square-mile area in the neighborhood and brought in four canine teams and various aircrafts.
The team also helped when 8-year-old Jenise disappeared from her Bremerton home in August 2014. She was later found dead.
“It’s a disservice to not do everything we can possibly do to get kids back,” said sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer, a CART team member and the Pierce County Amber Alert coordinator. “The team is something that will last way past any of us.”
To become certified, the team must show it meets 47 standards — which they laid out in three heavy binders — and demonstrate them during a live exercise.
Only a handful of people knew the scenario before the exercise. CART members had to work the case like they would any other.
About 150 people participated in the 31/2-hour exercise, which ended after a participant called 911 to report finding the girl and the van parked at a Parkland church
The kidnapper, played by an undercover detective, fled before deputies arrived.
“This is going to help us be more organized,” Lakewood police Lt. Chris Lawler said. “We’ve had a lot of training and a lot of communication and it will make us better."
The team includes representatives from Bonney Lake, Fife, Puyallup, Sumner and Lakewood police departments, as well as the Sheriff’s Department, Washington State Patrol, three FBI, Prosecutor’s Office, Joint Base Lewis-McChord military police, Pierce County Department of Emergency Management and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.