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Archive for December, 2008

There were many mistakes made and painful uncalled for statements issued during the search for Nurin Jazlin Jazimin and after her body was identified. There was an unprecedented outpouring of grief for the dead child, mostly because prior to the return of her remains, following almost a month of wide media coverage on the search for her, the photo of a dead child was splashed on the front pages of the main newspapers nationwide. The aim of the newspapers was purportedly to help identify the dead child whose body, abused and emaciated beyond recognition, was found dumped on the doorstep of a shophouse in a zipped sports bag. The shocking discovery and realisation that the unidentified body was indeed Nurin, after confirmation using DNA fingerprinting, was what made many of us take notice of Nurin and caused the entire nation to share in the grief of her parents and family. What followed soon after, the fiasco that ensued after the leak of her postmortem pictures in the internet, added inhuman insult upon inhumane injury. The nation was reeling in pain, some needed to lash out  at the police, at authorities, at politicians and at her parents, whomever  it was they thought could have and should have shielded and protected the child, and indirectly us too, from this barbaric monster who still lurks amongst us. The nation has not healed and many of us, including her family, are  still awaiting closure. Will we ever find it?

In the case of little Adam Walsh, the missing boy whose head, but not his body, was recovered after he went missing from a focus1210Florida shopping mall, the same emotions ran through the entire United States when I was still there. A regular TV news addict,  I too got caught up in the news reports, and along with millions of Americans, I waited and prayed for Adam’s safe recovery, hoping he had just strayed off with well-meaning people. Until the fateful newsflash came, of the discovery of his head, in the river near the shopping mall where he first went missing. I remember crying when I heard the news. I remember the inconsolable sorrow and I remember the pain we all shared, family members and complete strangers alike. Now, after so many years, I read about the closure of Adam’s case with a pang of nostalgia for the days when children were safe. I also feel gratifide that the US learned from Adam by improving and correcting mistakes made during the search for him. There is also this deep sense of sorrow that in Malaysia, we have still not learnt anything. from Nurin . Indeed, I salute the US police officers who apologised for the mistakes they made in the search for Adam, I commend them for admitting it and for taking steps to remedy their shortcomings. For their honesty and professionalism, Adam’s case can now be closed. And I, like the millions of people who were there when Adam went missing, still shed tears of grief  together with his parents, for a child that left us this valuable legacy so that other parents would be spared this unbelievable sorrow of losing a child in such horrendous circumstances. Can we expect our police force to learn anything from Nurin Jazlin Jazimin? They won’t even mention her name.

Read this CNN news report and excerpt below:

Hollywood police were accused of some major blunders in their investigation, and Wagner apologized to the Walshes for those mistakes. The case, he said, “made us a better agency…. If this same type of situation were to occur today, I would tell you it would be a much quicker, much better, much cleaner outcome.”

“In 1981, when Adam disappeared, you couldn’t enter missing children information into the FBI computer system,” said Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The Walshes are co-founders of the center.

“You could enter information on stolen cars, stolen guns and stolen jewelry, but you couldn’t enter information on missing children,” he said.

Walsh, who before Adam’s murder was a hotel developer, went to Capitol Hill and began a second career as an activist for crime victims. He fought for passage of the 1982 Missing Children’s Act, which created the FBI’s national database. Today, there are at least 80,000 missing children listed in the database.

In 1981, when Adam was taken and killed, there was no coordinated national response to child abductions. The 18,000 police departments across the United States did not effectively communicate.

“Most police departments would tell you he probably just ran away, if he doesn’t come back, call us in 48 or 72 hours,” Allen said. “But, what we’ve found in 75 percent of cases, the child is dead within the first three hours. Waiting until the day after tomorrow is just too late.”

Walsh lobbied for more federal legislation and by 1984, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children was up and running. With it came an explosion of activism that resulted in the faces of missing kids being printed on milk cartons and on fliers that have gone into 85 million homes a week for 23 years.

There also have been advances in age enhancement photography. “Code Adam” is now an internal alarm at 70,000 department stores and shops that alerts employees to potential threats to children. The employees are trained to lock the doors when the alarm goes off.

“It’s a powerful example of the legacy of one little boy and his courageous parents,” Allen said.

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0_61_walsh_adamLike fellow blogger Oliver Krishnan (Real Life), I started blogging about NURIN Alert when I got hot under the collar with this post “Shut up and do something about it!”. In that post I wrote about the abduction of Adam John Walsh and the gruesome discovery of his decapitated body. Having been in the USA during the time news broadcasts of the search for Adam and his eventual discovery, I empathized with the emotions aroused by the death of this little boy. His family, especially dad John Walsh, campaigned tirelessly for the formation of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), the Code Adam program for helping lost children in department stores and the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act that institutes a national database of convicted child molesters and higher penalties for sexual and violent offenses against children.

Today, after over 27 years, the case of Adam’s killers is now closed. Read news reports here, here and here. What our cmgirl_article_narrowweb__300x4180police officers and politicians can learn from this case, which happened long before Amber Hagerman was abducted and killed (but my cynicism doubts they will even know about Adam’s case), is how it helped US police as eventually more tools were designed to assist them in the search for an abducted child. The police did not just fold up their files and forget about Adam after his body was discovered by saying they did the best they could. Instead the search for his killer continued until now that is. Read the following excerpts from news reports that I hope would spur our own Police and tDatuk Dr Ng Yen Yen’s Ministry to think more seriously about adopting Nurin Jazlin Jazimin’s name for the NURIN Alert:

For all that went wrong in the probe, the case contributed to massive advances in police searches for missing youngsters and a notable shift in the view parents and children hold of the world.

Adam’s death, and his father’s activism on his behalf, helped put faces on milk cartons, shopping bags and mailbox flyers, started fingerprinting programs and increased security at schools and stores. It spurred the creation of missing persons units at every large police department.

“In 1981, when a child disappeared, you couldn’t enter information about a child into the FBI database. You could enter information about stolen cars, stolen guns but not stolen children,” said Ernie Allen, president of the Center for Missing and Exploited Children, co-founded by John Walsh. “Those things have all changed.”

The case also prompted national legislation to create a national database and toll-free line devoted to missing children, and led to the start of “America’s Most Wanted,” which brought those cases into millions of homes.  (Read full report here)

Walsh Case Changes The Face Of Missing Children
Eliott Rodriguez

MIAMI (CBS4) ― Twenty-seven years ago, those who lived in South Florida mourned together with John and Reve Walsh. As the years after six-year-old Adam’s disappearance went by, we witnessed how his death changed the future of child safety and missing children forever.

“Everything has changed. That day made everything change,” said Claudia Corrigan, vice president of “A Child is Missing,” a group based in Fort Lauderdale that locates missing children across the country. “Since then, so much proactivity has occurred in order to not have this happen again.”

Corrigan is right. Police have many more tolls than they had when Adam disappeared.

In 2006, President Bush signed the Adam Walsh Child Protection Act, which mandates the registration of sexual offenders and child predators.

“This law makes an important step forward in this country’s efforts to protect those who cannot protect themselves,” President George W. Bush said in 2006 after signing the Act.

Wal-Mart also established Code Adam, a safety program for missing children now used in thousands of stores and office buildings.

“Code Adam was another wonderful tool to law enforcement to help prevent a child from going missing,” said Corrigan.

“A Child is Missing” has helped safely recover 435 missing children using high-tech tools that connect them directly to police, and even satellite technology.

So, for Claudia Corrigan, who along with the program’s founder Sherry Friedlander, has dedicated much of her life to finding missing children, the work done here honors the memory of Adam and other child crime victims.

“It is so important that parents get involved in their children’s lives,” said Corrigan.

New Tools Since 1981 Adam Walsh Abduction and Murder
By Joe Ulery 12/16/2008

It’s been 27 years since six-year-old Adam Walsh was abducted and murdered in Hollywood, Florida.

The little boy was the son of John Walsh who would later become the host of television’s “America’s Most Wanted.”

Hollywood police are now officially closing Adam’s abduction and murder case.

But while Adam’s case ended in death, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police say a lot has changed during the past three decades, giving officers more tools to use when a child is taken from parents.

Detective Chester Price has been an Indianapolis police officer 22 years. Since he took the job, science has made advancements, the Amber Alert System has been implemented, and there is improved relationship between police and media to get information to the public as fast as possible.

Another key in preventing a child abduction is educating children about who not to talk to.

It used to be we were told not to talk to strangers, but Price says that is not the right thing to tell kids.

“When you ask children what a stranger looks like, they’re going to describe a bad man with a mask and a gun. But a stranger is really anyone children do not know,” Price explained.

Having information ready to immediately hand to an officer also improves chances of finding the missing child.

Parents should have a current picture, not one from school, but one depicting the child on an average day. Other helpful things include a DNA swab of your child’s mouth. It can be stored in the freezer. Also have accurate documentation of the child’s physical appearance.

The biggest mistake you can make if your child is missing is searching to find him or her before contacting police.

Price says call police immediately, so they can help search. He says 74-percent of missing children who are murder are murdered within the first three hours of abduction.

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Just when I had given up on anything good coming out of the NURIN Alert proposal, the debate on cmgirl_article_narrowweb__300x4180this issue is ongoing in the NST (See Letter to the Editor below). I fully agree with the views of Dr Hartati as it indeed reflects very much what the Citizens for NURIN Alert (C4NA) had discussed. Indeed without the responsibility for decision making and coordinating the alert response, when an alert is issued there could be more chaos than help. However, while she calls for more research on this, isn’t the current scenario where well-meaning groups come out in a haphazard manner to search for the missing child already what is happening? She is stating the obvious when what we need is the Ministry to work with the almighty Police to get better coordinated. Don’t wait for another missing child before we mobilise the necessary teams into action. Conduct the research, do the training, create awareness, launch campaigns and educate the public. Educate, educate, educate until everybody gets the message!! That is the key to getting better coordinated. No matter how much we do to create awareness, there will always be  careless parents and oblivious children who will inadvertantly fall victim to these predators. What makes us be so sure that if we keep news of the missing child away from the public that the child will not be killed in those first few hours, let alone after days, months and years? It is the crucial few hours when the predator has not had a chance to get away and has not had a chance to harm the child that we need to act together in a concerted effort, mobilise everybody, create roadblocks at strategic roads and search the likely places where the perp might try to escape or hide the child. Logical thinking will tell you that there is a high likelihood that the child might be killed with all that media alerts blaring out on TV and radio and in newspapers, blogs and sms’es. But experience in the US where the Amber Alert has been in use since 1996 shows it not only can, but has worked.  Delays in mobilising the community will mean certain death and worse, after hours, weeks, months of torture and abuse. My heart breaks at the thought. Do what you will then while we pray that it is not our children or grandchildren that becomes the next victim. Read this article on Mlive.com if you are still unsure:

Safe return of three girls proves that Amber Alerts work
Posted by The Bay City Times December 10, 2008 08:11AM

The safe and sound return of three Saginaw girls to their relatives last month is proof positive.

Until that close-to-home case was quickly resolved through Amber Alerts on radio and television, the value of this cooperative arrangement between law enforcement and broadcasters might not have been clear.

Now, it is.

Police issued the alert, and broadcasters aired it, after the girls’ mother was found beaten to death in their home. Their father was thought to have taken the girls to visit relatives in Indiana.

A motorist who had heard the Amber Alert saw a car matching the description on M-52 in Shiawassee County. She called police, who stopped the car and retrieved the girls. Their father, Jose Olguin, 35, of Saginaw, was later charged with open murder in the death of Erica Olguin, 32.

The nationwide Amber Alerts are for exactly this kind of case. Not every report of a missing child qualifies for the urgency and wide reach of an Amber Alert.

They are reserved for children 17 and younger who are believed to be abducted, and in danger. Amber is the name of an Arlington, Texas, girl who was abducted and murdered in 1993. It’s now also an acronym, standing for “America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response.”

And, now, we have seen just how well it works.

 The New Straits Times Letter to the Editor:        

2008/12/11

MISSING CHILDREN: Second thoughts about adopting the Nurin Alert
DR HARTINI ZAINUDIN Rumah Jagaan Kanak Kanak Nursalam, Chow Kit, Kuala Lumpur

I REFER to the letter from Oliver Kumaran of Kuala Lumpur on the Nurin Alert (“Speedy information is of the essence” — NST, Dec 8).

Allow me to elaborate on where Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen and the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development stand with regard to the proposed Nurin Alert and the new Child Protection Policy which is likely to be approved soon.

I am the adviser to Rumah Kanak Kanak NurSalam in Chow Kit, Kuala Lumpur, a 24-hour, one-stop crisis centre for children under 18 and a “drop in” and activity centre. The centre has 333 children, mostly under 12 years, registered with it.

We are constantly taking in more children. The week that Nurin disappeared, a 7-year-old boy turned up at my centre. He had been detained by someone for three days, molested and released, scared and scarred. He isn’t the only child, abducted, molested and returned, or who disappears.

The sheer frustration of seeing the mother and this little boy suffer is immense and the case is still pending, a year on.

So, if there’s anyone else who wants to see a comprehensive and effective alert system for children who go missing, it’s us at NurSalam.

I have also been part of a task force working on the Child Protection Policy (there are many government agencies and non-governmental organisations who have been invited to work on the policy) because the ministry feels it needs all the help it can get and believes we have some expertise in the different areas that must be looked at with regards to the protection and welfare of all children.

The alert system that Kumaran refers to is only one of many safety mechanisms proposed in the Child Protection Policy. It calls for a comprehensive alert bulletin to be issued during a suspected abduction of a child — including sms, email, television, radio and cable station participation — to disseminate information on suspected missing children in the quickest time.

There needs to be a central agency that coordinates and is responsible for sending out this bulletin; the recommendation (and rightly so) is this task should go to the the law and judicial enforcement agencies, not the ministry, as is the case in other countries that have alert systems.

So, while the Child Protection Policy can recommend an alert system in cases of suspected abduction (which we did), the minister is correct in saying that the “Nurin Alert” is not part of the Child Protection Policy because the ministry cannot spell out how to enforce this alert without agreement from the local enforcement and judicial agencies.

One of the biggest problems with the Amber Alert or similar systems is the number of false alarms that are raised because there is no strict adherence to the very narrow and definite criteria that have to be met before a bulletin is issued. This bulletin is a huge responsibility; there should be serious consequences if an agency issues a bulletin with incomplete or inaccurate information.

We need to do a lot more research on strategies and fool-proof procedures before we decide to implement an Amber -type alert comprehensively.

The last thing we want to do is to jeopardise the safety of a child during the first few critical hours where we suspect a child has been abducted, because the abductor panics and harms the child (as probably happened in the recent case in Chicago where a 7-year-old was murdered allegedly during the first few hours of an Amber Alert).

So, the minister was correct too when she said that it was inappropriate to “splash the news of a missing child in the newspapers for the first few hours”. We don’t need mobs running all over the place looking for a missing child without direction and supervision from the law or judicial enforcement agency, who must lead the way in this.

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I read with horror this New Straits Times report (see below) about a 16-year-old girl being charged in court for attempted suicide. I couldn’t help thinking that what she may0216enew23b1 have failed to do before, the harsh media spotlights on her now might very well prompt her to complete the deed. I’m not sure if I understand this right, was she being charged because she was just pretending to commit suicide? Had she done it properly, she could have escaped the charges that she now faces and not suffer the disgrace that she and her family are subjected to now? Explain it to me how charging a troubled teenager who was, to all intents and purposes trying to draw attention to herself, would prevent her from trying it again? This time she is sure to do a proper job of it. Isn’t a suicide attempt a cry for help? Shouldn’t she be helped first instead of being dragged to court to be punished for failing to kill herself? I don’t understand where the logic is in using her case to prove what? That all suicide attempts will be punished for not going all the way?

Listen, no matter what she has done, a troubled teenager needs help more than punishment. In these troubling times, teen suicide is on the rise all around the world. This worrying global trend is rooted in depression, often stemming from causes such as broken homes, drug abuse, bullying  and suicide pacts. Was there any attempt to find out why the 16-year-old tried to jump off the hotel roof? Tell me, when you were sixteen did you never feel that life was so hopeless that you just wanted to end it all? Maybe not as drastic an attempt as this 16-year-old perhaps but we’ve all been there, depressed and alone. If we don’t extend a helping hand to this troubled teen, would she ever be able to grow up and live a normal life, maybe be happy even?

Just read this story here, about a teen who attempted suicde by jumping off the ninth floor and lived to tell about it. He now speaks about his experience to highschool kids telling them about mental illness and to spread the message that when left untreated, this condition could lead to suicide. In the article, “Burnham said he set expectations for himself he could never meet, and when he failed, he could not forgive himself. Moments before he jumped, his parents confronted him about alcohol they’d found in the trunk of his car. “I’m sorry for letting you down,” he told them.He explained to the middle school students: “I felt hopeless, like I can never do anything right for my parents.”

Oh I forgot, that this is Malaysia where we just  blame  the parents, forget the kid and just drag everybody before the court! Unless it’s our own kids of course. Why oh why did they have to use this 16-year-old as a case in point? Another landmark case of insensitive reaction to every cry for help. Had she not been 16-years-old, had this not been a possible first time attempt and had there not been the spectre of mental illness and depression after being dumped by her boyfriend, I could have understood the need for resorting to prosecution. Whatever said and done, the only harm she would have caused would be to herself. (Photo is only an illustration. Read more about it here)  

Those who have problems can call The Befrienders. Its Kuala Lumpur hotline operates around the clock. They can be reached at 04-281 5161/1108 in Penang, 03-7956 8144/5 (Kuala Lumpur), 05-547 7933/55 (Ipoh), 06-284 2500 (Malacca), 06-765 3588/9 (Seremban) and 07-331 2300 (Johor Baru).
    

 A would-be teen suicide helps others
By Michael Vitez

One year ago, Jordan Burnham, then an 18-year-old high school senior, was lying in a hospital bed, unable to speak, fighting for his life after jumping out a ninth-floor window. Yesterday, in a new chapter in his life, Burnham told the story of his depression, suicide attempt and recovery to hundreds of riveted students at Pottsgrove Middle and High Schools. “Would you take back that day?” asked one middle school student. “Yeah,” said Burnham. “It was a horrible decision. I hope no one goes through what I did.” But, he added, in one way the tragedy has given his life purpose. He can now help others understand mental illness and avoid what happened to him. “It did change my life in such a positive way,” he said, “and I hopefully can help others.” Clearly, he did……

16-year-old girl charged with attempted suicide

By : Sean Augustin

KUALA TERENGGANU: A 16-year-old girl was charged yesterday in the Court for Children with attempting to commit suicide.  The teenager was alleged to have committed the offence at the YT Midtown Hotel rooftop on Nov 21 by attempting to jump off the building. Prosecution was handled by Nelson Ensit. The girl, accompanied by her mother, was unrepresented. Court registrar Kahirul Anuar set bail at RM2,500 in one surety and set Jan 22 for mention. It was reported on Nov 22 that the teenager threatened to jump off the ledge of the 10-storey hotel following a quarrel with her boyfriend. This is the first in many years that anyone has been charged with attempted suicide. The measure is being taken after a spate of suicides and attempted suicides in recent weeks prompted Deputy Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Ismail Omar to tell the New Straits Times that police were considering enforcing the law.

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