Lessons to be learned from a scary near-miss

Feb. 12, 2011

We've all heard the news of the reported attempted abduction of a 7-year-old in Odell on Sunday, Feb. 6.

We've also heard some of the details. The incident is still under investigation, but at this point it is assumed to have been a real threat to one of our community's children.

For me, a bit of innocence is lost in realizing that our little Valley is just as likely to fall prey to an outside danger as anywhere else. Perhaps I was a bit too willing to live in my sense of the inherent protection a small community offers.

But, honestly, I am also relieved to be forced to face reality head-on. We had a near-miss here in Hood River. No one was harmed and no one was abducted. We were all very lucky.

We also now have a chance, without waiting for the loss or harm of another child, to be better prepared for the future.

This is not a time to assign blame or second-guess what have been workable procedures developed in the past.

It is a time to think analytically, review resources, adapt to new communication possibilities and help each other harness the best of every agency, department, organization and individual citizen in the Valley.

If we look back over the course of events, from the moment the reported incident occurred on Sunday, to the eventual full public awareness on Wednesday afternoon (or late Tuesday if you watched television reports), we can find areas in which our safety net system can be improved.

It is safe to say that every parent, and adult with child supervisory duties, wants to ensure that they are fully informed of potential aggressive predatory incidents so they can take every precaution needed.

Without comprising an in-process law enforcement investigation we can, as a community, come together and review in what ways more information can be shared with greater speed through wider distribution networks during a time of serious threat within our county boundaries.

Ironically, it is reported that personal messages on Facebook were picked up by media in Portland, prior to the official flash-alert report was issued by the Hood River County Sheriff's office. This too, points to a need to respond, as a community, to a changing information environment.

We need to take this opportunity to ask important questions on procedures, local agencies' roles and responsibilities, Internet and social network information distribution modes and public policy.

I believe we can better succeed in protecting our children and, ultimately, our beautiful way of life here, by supporting our community leaders in law enforcement, schools, hospitals, churches, and the media in any effort they make to conduct a "post-incident" systems review.

These are our community's best and brightest - let's give them our vote to face this head-on.

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