The busiest shopping season of the year is underway. For shoppers there are lots of opportunities for bargains and for people who prey on small children there are opportunities too. In El Paso, Texas, a five-year-old girl was lured from a store, kidnapped and murdered. A program is designed to prevent that from happening.
It's called Code Adam, named in memory of Adam Walsh who, in 1981, was kidnapped from a store in Florida and later found dead. It's been adopted by stores in Alabama and store managers tell WSFA that it works.
Beth Harris was shopping Wednesday with her two small boys. She says the holiday shopping rush is already evident. That's why she has rules for her sons to follow to keep them from getting separated. "I tell them before we go in the store that they have to stay by me. In fact, my oldest has to have his hand on the cart at all times," Harris says. "Of course that doesn't always work."
That's true. It DOESN'T always work, so many stores have a program in place that can mean the difference between life and death. When "Code Adam" is announced over the public address system, employees stop what they're doing to help in the search.
"Normally, there's at least 130 employees in this store at a time," says Craig Hill, Co-Director of Super K-Mart on South Boulevard. "We alert all 130 employees and we all are looking for the child and usually, within less than a minute someone finds the child." Guards at the doors of K-Mart are also given the child's description, making sure he or she never leaves the store.
It's happened in Montgomery before, often when children get caught up in video games or new toys and loose sight of their parents. Parents like Harris know it can happen and are glad the program is in place. "It's nice to know that they would take quick action instead of letting the parent handle it all by themselves," she says.
But notifying the store is the key. In the El Paso, Texas case, the Code Adam procedure was implemented, but it was too late. The girl was already gone. The Code Adam program was started by Wal-Mart and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. It has been adopted by a number of store chains nationwide.