News & Politics

FBI Offers Parents Advice on Keeping Kids Safe During Summer Vacation

An FBI official also talked about the ongoing search for missing DC girl Relisha Rudd.

Relisha Rudd. Photograph via FBI.

It’s been more than two months since eight-year-old Relisha Rudd went missing from the District’s homeless shelter at the old DC General hospital complex. Timothy Gallagher, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, discussed the Rudd case this week while showing off the bureau’s guide for parents on keeping their children safe during summer vacation. With schools about to let out and kids heading off to summer camp, Gallagher offered these tips:

  • Check your child care providers against sex-offender registries
  • Ask summer camps and other programs about the background checks they run on their staffs
  • Know where and with whom your children are at all times during the day
  • Talk to your children about safety

The FBI also has a mobile app called Child ID for parents to store photographs and identifying information about their kids to share with law enforcement in the event they go missing. Gallagher says information uploaded to the app stays only on the user’s phone and is not connected to the FBI unless it is shared when a child goes missing. From there, Gallagher says, the bureau can disseminate the information to local law enforcement agencies and the Amber Alert system. The bureau says the app recently helped in the discovery in April of a six-year-old boy who went missing in San Juan, Puerto Rico in December 2012.

“The more people we can get a picture out to, the better our chances are of finding them,” Gallagher says. “I worked one of these things 15 years ago, it was unthinkable that we’d be able to reach that many people that quickly. This just multiplies our eyes.”

Nearly 106,000 people under the age of 21 were entered into the National Crime Information Center’s missing person file between June and August of last year, according to FBI statistics. Almost 109,000 missing juvenile cases were canceled or closed over the same period, although that figure includes files opened since record-keeping began in 1975.

As for Rudd, Gallagher says the FBI is still cooperating intensely with the Metropolitan Police Department, US Park Police, and the other agencies searching for the missing second-grader. Developments in Relisha’s case have been sparse, and sometimes grim. The initial search of Kenilworth Park in late March turned up the body of Kahlil Tatum, a 51-year-old DC General janitor suspected in Relisha’s disappearance.

“We’re continuing to work it,” says Gallagher. “We still receive tips. We’re still actively searching.”

“We’ve recovered children years down the line, so it’s a rescue operation.,” Gallagher says, noting last year’s discovery of three women in Cleveland who were kidnapped and held for over 10 years by Ariel Castro, who died in prison last December in an apparent suicide. “We are out there following up every lead actively looking to bring her back.”

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.