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