What is "Code Adam"?

January 06, 2023 | by: Cesar J Segura

What is "Code Adam"?

Most true crime fanatics will know the name John Walsh as the former host of the hit TV show America’s Most Wanted. Additionally, John Walsh has advocated for exploited children and their families for decades. However, many people do not know John’s reasoning behind seeking justice for victim’s families. You see, back on July 27th, 1981, John’s 6-year-old son Adam Walsh was abducted from the Sears department store in Hollywood, Florida. Adam while at the store was accompanied by his mother who decided it would be okay for him to play a video game on one of the aisles while she grabbed a few items. However, when she returned, her son was gone. After a massive 16-day police search of the store and surrounding areas, two fishermen found Adam’s body floating in a canal.

In 1984, Adam’s parents John and Reve Walsh helped find the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). Since its inception, NCMEC has helped recover over 375,000 children across the country. Additionally, NCMEC has also helped establish a well known call in department stores in the United States, Code Adam. This code is utilized across facilities including government buildings, parks, and businesses to create protocols to begin a quick response when a child goes missing. NCME reports the following 6 steps be initiated upon a code Adam alert:

  • If a visitor reports a child is missing, a detailed description of the child and what they are wearing is obtained. Specifically, what color and type of shoes the child is wearing; due to how in department stores and other stores selling clothing in particular, it is easier to change a child's clothes but far harder to find different shoes. Additionally, all exterior access to the building is locked and monitored; anyone approaching a door is turned away.
  • The employee goes to the nearest in-house telephone and pages Code Adam, describing the child's physical features and clothing. As designated employees monitor front entrances, other employees begin looking for the child.
  • If the child is not found within 10 minutes, law enforcement is notified.
  • If the child is found and appears to have been lost and unharmed, the child is reunited with the parent or legal guardian.
  • If the child is found accompanied by someone other than a parent or legal guardian, reasonable efforts to delay their departure will be used without putting the child, staff, or visitors at risk. Law enforcement will be notified and given details about the person accompanying the child.
  • The Code Adam page will be terminated when the child is found or when law enforcement arrives.

If you wish to learn more about Code Adam or train your workplace regarding how to respond to a Code Adam, visit https://www.missingkids.org/education/training/codeadam for more information.

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This website was produced by the Cahuilla Consortium under grant award #2019-VO-GX-0010, awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed on this website are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

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