It’s interesting how our perceptions change over time. As a kid I can recall thinking that my parents — sticklers for curfews and always insistent on knowing where I was going, what I was doing, and with whom — were too overprotective (although back then I probably used the word “uncool”). As an adult, I’m aware of the dangers that lurk around every corner and threaten our children every day, and I’ve come to appreciate the commitment that my parents made in order to keep me safe. And as a father of two children, I’m actually more overprotective and uncool than my parents ever were.
Having a personal appreciation for and interest in protecting children led me to volunteer with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), an organization fighting to keep children safer from abduction and sexual exploitation. Through my time with the NCMEC I’ve met some truly remarkable people — both law enforcement officials and families who have endured great hardship, having been personally impacted by the heinous actions of sexual predators.
Witnessing firsthand the work being done by the NCMEC, along with the strength and courage of those affected by abduction and sexual exploitation, inspired me to want to do more. Specifically, something that would provide a definitive benefit to the NCMEC’s mission and positively impact the Los Angeles community.
In an effort to make a tangible contribution to the NCMEC, I’m sponsoring a training and development program for local law enforcement officials at the Museum of Tolerance from January 27 – 31. The training will feature specialists in the field of abduction prevention and recovery teaching local law enforcement personnel the most sophisticated methods and introducing them to the most advanced resources available to help protect children as well as monitor and track sexual predators.
This training, along with NCMEC initiatives such as a nationwide network that aids in the response and recovery of missing children and the CyberTipline that utilizes a volunteer force of retired law enforcement officers to assist in their search, ensures that law enforcement tactics evolve ahead of the criminals. We all want children to be protected, and keeping law enforcement better equipped and more advanced than the predators is a major step in making that happen. Such proactive initiatives have helped the NCMEC facilitate the recovery of more than 188,000 children.
I’m excited about the training program, and in speaking to law enforcement officials they have echoed that sentiment, acknowledging that advanced resources can only help aid in their efforts to protect children. But I hope this training program is only the beginning.
What’s taking place here in Los Angeles can easily be expanded, with the help of community members, to other major cities, and eventually nationwide. The ultimate goal is to help law enforcement protect all children, which is only possible via expansion of the program. I’m honored and humbled to be a part of an organization that is protecting children and their families from potential tragedy. I hope you’ll join me in furthering the cause of the NCMEC, here in Los Angeles and throughout the nation.
To learn more about the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and what you can do to get involved and help sponsor a training program in your area, please visit their website.
// Sam Solakyan