DEFUNIAK SPRINGS, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Kids in Northwest Florida can feel a little safer after local law enforcement gets nationally certified in child abduction response.
Friday, helicopters, K-9s, and search teams were all deployed as part of a mock child abduction.
"We'd like to pretend we live in a perfect world where children don't get abducted but that's not reality, and the reality is the more we prepare for it the better we are when it actually does occur," Corey Dobridnia with the Walton County Sheriff's Office explained.
"It's important for us to practice, that we do this right so that, God forbid, it happens in real life again, and unfortunately, we know that it will. History is a teacher of that, but that we perform at a level that insures the safety of a child," said Walton County Sheriff Michael Adkinson. "This is ultimately about protecting children."
With agencies from Tallahassee to Pensacola creating a child abduction response team or C.A.R.T., the key is everyone knowing their role.
"We interview witnesses at the scene, we process evidence and then we initialize an incident command," Dobridnia said.
"It's one team, one mission, which is to bring a child home safety," Adkinson stated.
"Normally, these people don't interact in the same room on a daily basis, so an exercise like this will help them get to know each other, who's better at what, who's capable at what and fill in the gaps," Dobridnia added.
Like pieces to a puzzle, they are collecting information with the goal of bringing this scenario to a happy ending.
"It's the actual event as it unfolds in a mock scenario," Dobridnia explained. "So you will see an increase in law enforcement, there will be a perp, there will be a van, evidence and backpack, things like that."
Something as little as a tip of a child sighting sets off a series of events that can lead to law enforcement success.
"Children are our most valuable asset and we're here to protect them and get everybody in the same room so we're all on the same page in the event of a real-life scenario plays out," Dobridnia said.
"I think when you see the level of professionalism, the level of dedication these men and women have," said Adkinson, "it ought to give you pause because I will tell you, we will ride this thing to the ground to bring a child home. We've done it before and we'll do it again if necessary."
Although Friday's exercise was a special training exercise as part of that certification, C.A.R.T. trains each month.