With departments on heightened alert due to the recent incidents of luring, New Milford Police Chief Frank Papapietro stresses that what the public does not get to see is that police are constantly training for worst case scenarios, especially ones involving child abductions.
"We may not advertise our training drills," Papapietro said. "But we are always exercising them."
With the recent spate in luring incidents around Bergen County, police are utilizing the specialized training that they continually undergo in trying to apprehend the person or persons responsible for posing a threat to the county's children.
Understanding the increased levels of concern luring cases provoke within the community, Papapietro wants to reassure the public that law enforcement is "fully trained and fully prepared to deal with any potential situation of this magnitude."
For instance, Papapietro is a founding member of Bergen County's Rapid Deployment Force (RDF), an elite team of highly trained members of law enforcement who respond as a unit to specific missions throughout the county. The RDF is deployed to assist a local police chief with a particular need that exceeds his department's resources--whether it's a child abduction or terroristic threat.
The RDF was founded during the 1994 Soccer World Cup at Giants Stadium. According to Papapietro, the original focus of the RDF was crowd and riot control, but they are constantly adapting their training and education to deal with current threats. The RDF was deployed to assist in securing the George Washington Bridge on Sept. 11 and are fully prepared to deal with any potential child abduction.
Specifically, the RDF has performed numerous drills on child abduction. In November 2011, the RDF held an inter-jurisdictional child abduction drill that was a coordinated training exercise between the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office and the RDF. It consisted of a team of approximately 100 highly trained men and women selected from local law enforcement agencies and the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office.
Cpt. Joe Hornyak of the Prosecutor's Office Child Abduction Response Team (CART) based the scenario of the drill on real events. The drill was overseen by Papapietro and Steven Cucciniello, Chief of Detectives for the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office. Papapietro said, "We've all worked together for so many years that these drills are fluid and go very smoothly whether it's a drill or real events."
According to Papapietro, dealing with a situation that involves a multi-jurisdicitonal response is like choreagraphing an intricate dance. However, he said that consistent training is the only method that creates the experience of team. Training also defines the boundaries that develop when diverse functional entities such as local police, sheriff's dpt., county prosecutor's office and F.B.I., work together to bring resolution to an intricate multi-jurisdictional case. In the event of an actual situation, everyone knows their roles.
Should there be an actual child abduction in Bergen County, the RDF would be called up and deployed to the scene immediately. In addition to mobilizing the mass of men and women comprising the search and rescue foot patrol in the event of an actual abduction, K-9's are often called into service during an abduction scenario.
Also present is the Bergen County Mobile Command Unit, a rolling communications center equipped with state-of-the-art radios and computer technology, and the Bergen County Sheriff's Mobile Crime Scene Unit where field evidence can be collected and processed. When it comes to a potential child abducton, N.J. State Police has a helicopter that would hover over the scene searching for evidence of the missing child from above the tree line.
Papapietro wants people to know that law enforcement is working hard to apprehend the person or persons who are targeting children and understand that there are specialized teams trained to deal with all types of worst case scenarios.
Regarding the recent luring attempts, Papapietro reminds parents to talk to their children about 'stranger danger' and stay on top of what their kids are doing on the computer.
"The biggest predatory element we have in our society today are computers and social networks," Papapietro said.
"As children, we were all told not to go into a stranger's house," Papapietro said. "Now, computers bring strangers from around the world right into our children's bedrooms."