Texas State Troopers Rescue 500th Missing Child in Traffic Stop Since Child Protection Training

Texas State Troopers Rescue 500th Missing Child in Traffic Stop Since Child Protection Training
(Illustration - Mama Belle and the kids/Shutterstock)

Texas State Troopers have safely recovered their 500th missing child during a traffic stop on Sept. 16—a milestone in their war waged on human trafficking.

The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) director, Steven McCraw, has praised the Troopers for their "outstanding contribution."

The nationwide Interdiction for the Protection of Children (IPC) program has something to do with making the milestone happen.

Developed in 2009 by Texas DPS officer Derek Prestridge, IPC trains troopers how to spot red flags in suspected cases of child abduction. The program's motto implores law enforcement personnel and child safety advocates to "[s]top waiting for children to ask for your help."
"This is an outstanding contribution to public safety by our Troopers, who identified and rescued children during standard traffic stops, even though the child could not necessarily vocalize they needed help," McGraw said in a press release.

"At the same time, it helped us take reprehensible criminals, who prey on one of our most vulnerable populations, off the streets."

The 16-hour intensive program was created to fill the void in the skill of identifying missing or at-risk kids. Its child-centered approach teaches Troopers to discern whether or not a child is safe based on specific behavior markers and contextual clues.

The training also equips officers to remove children from dangerous scenarios and assists the DPS in investigating related criminal activity.

By 2018, trained Texas State Troopers had recovered 341 missing children, stating in follow-up interviews that their training was instrumental in identifying the victims.

"If this training becomes routine," Prestridge said, "we could be saving thousands of children."

Before the inception of the IPC program, Texas did not even keep a record of recovered missing or exploited children; there was, quite literally "no box to check," as Prestridge noted.

"This isn’t to say that police don’t want to rescue children," he added. "Of course we do. The problem is that we haven’t really known how."

But that's changing.

IPC training may also assist in uncovering sexual assault cases and even possession of child pornography.

In 2016, Prestridge was recognized with an award from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Pete Banks, the Center's former director of training and outreach, said the IPC program "provides exactly what’s needed, an intensive training that focuses on the population in law enforcement that can make the greatest difference," according to The Washington Post.

And the program marked its 11th consecutive year in 2020. So far, it has trained over 10,000 people nationwide.

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