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Child abduction team to conduct exercise in F-M area

WEST FARGO - If you see authorities searching for a missing child Wednesday morning in the Fargo-Moorhead area, relax: It's only a test.

Law enforcement agencies working toward certification of North Dakota's first Child Abduction Response Team (CART) will hold a mock abduction exercise on Wednesday.

The agencies have been cooperating for more than three years to establish a CART as an extension of the Amber Alert system. They're in the process of gaining certification through the U.S. Justice Department, said Detective Sgt. Greg Warren of the West Fargo Police Department, which has spearheaded the effort.

Warren said the goal is to develop a faster response with more resources to "flood the area" when a child abduction situation arises.

Another goal is to share the workload during prolonged abduction cases such as the one that involved University of North Dakota student Dru Sjodin, he said.

The 32-member team has representatives from the Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo police departments, Cass and Clay sheriff's offices, U.S. Marshals Service, North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation, state and federal probation offices, Rape and Abuse Crisis Center and Red River Children's Advocacy Center.

The team is unique among the nation's 16 CARTs because it's the only one with jurisdictions in two states, Warren said.

"Everybody just works really well together here," he said.

The team has never been deployed, but there have been a couple of close calls, Warren said.

"If we do not meet the criteria to put out an Amber Alert, that does not mean that we can't call out our CART team to help assist, whether it's a kidnapping, abduction, or whatever it may be, if circumstances show that we need assistance," he said, adding that the agencies have a memorandum of understanding that spells out when the team should be used.

Wednesday's exercise will involve a mock abduction and CART callout. Instructors from Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton, Wis., which provides the training program for the Justice Department, will monitor the team's performance.

The exercise also will include a test of the CodeRED notification system, so some members of the public may receive a CodeRED message on their phone, Warren said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528