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4.1 Targeting

Confidentiality is imperative. Sensitive information shared inappropriately can start rumors, compromise the search, unnecessarily distract the family, and hamper the investigation.

Targeting involves the selection and sequencing of the search areas, and setting the search team size and type. Targeting decisions are made based on information collected from law enforcement agencies, eyewitness accounts and evidence / information obtained from the search parties during debriefing.

The targeting team needs to be one of the first groups organized. The speed the team is put into action is critical early in the search. The targeting team should be prepared to work the entire duration of the search effort. Individuals with knowledge of the search area, terrain, and buildings are imperative.

A secure room with restricted access is essential. Lock the door.

The targeting group interfaces with:

Master Search Map

Targeters maintain a master search map. A search sector numbering system must be established immediately (example: sector LRC-001 through LRC-999). The master search map contains the following information:

Search Journal

The targeting group keeps a Journal that allows a rapid assessment of significant searches. The Journal, maintained in a spiral notebook, should include the following information:

Targeting Strategy

The Targeting team designates areas to be searched by foot, and those that require door - to - door canvassing (with flyer distribution). Targeters are also responsible for designating areas for specialty teams such as dogs, infrared imaging, ultra light aircraft, helicopters, horsemen, and boats. Specialty search teams are most effective during the first three days of the search while evidence is fresh.

The targeting team should be readily available to re-evaluate or change search efforts at any time during the search as new "hot" information is received. Re-searching previously searched locations is often recommended. Information and possible evidence changes occur where a new set of searchers or a specialized search team might see an area in a "different way". It is also possible for evidence to be "dumped" back into areas already searched. If an area is to be searched again, use the original search sector number plus '-1', '-2', etc.

Targeters must insure that no sites under current investigation are disturbed by the search parties. Work through the Director and Deputy Director to get information from Law Enforcement agencies.

The Targeting for the next day should be done after the final search parties of the day have returned and are debriefed.

If the missing child is in an urban environment the dynamics of the search will concentrate more on door-to-door canvassing. Seek permission from managers of apartments and commercial businesses. These searches will be more dependent on sightings and personal observations. Searchers should note the presence of security cameras and ask their owners not to erase tapes. Cameras should be reported to debriefing.

The search involves two simultaneous efforts: A) A systematic, expanding search starting with the last known location of the missing child and B) Specifically targeted areas that are selected as a result of effort A.

The search areas that should be considered include:

Targeting is based upon:


Obtaining maps of the areas to be searched is critical and may be difficult and time consuming. Mapping is done by 2 or 3 persons who have a good knowledge of the search area. This knowledge includes the terrain, roadways, local structures, waterways, etc.... They are responsible for:

The mappers need to immediately obtain as many detailed maps of the search area they can. Maps that display natural and man made boundaries are best for determining search areas. Use those boundaries to lay out the search sectors. Detail is more important than the exact scale.

Maps can be obtained from many sources like local county government agencies, power companies, chambers of commerce, state highway departments, U.S. geological surveys, local map makers and map companies, flood control or water authorities and utility companies. Local maps can sometimes be found at bookstores.

If a computer is available to the mappers the use of a mapping program may be better than available local maps. There are numerous computer mapping programs available (Section on Recommended Software).

Depending on the size of the search effort, the mappers should have at least 50 search areas ready for the next day. Because of this, mappers usually work from late afternoon and late into the night. The number of the search areas will increase around the weekends and decrease after the search has lasted over one week.

In anticipation of a long search, several mappers should be trained and available to relieve each other. Overlapping some work hours will allow a smooth transition.

Equipment Needed

Equipment needed for the start-up of the targeting team:

Shutdown Tasks

Upon completion, a final meeting should document any unfinished or uncompleted searches. The targeting journal and all maps should be secured and archived with the Historian. The targeting room should be cleared of all maps, notes, communications equipment and office supplies.

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