OPERATION LOOKOUT® National Center for Missing Youth, CELEBRATES THE RETURN OF ELIZABETH SMART AND OFFERS IMPORTANT ADVICE TO THE PUBLIC

News Release For Immediate Release
March 13, 2003

Everett, Washington – Along with other national missing children’s centers, Operation Lookout, Washington’s oldest and only missing child center, felt the full impact of the astonishing news of the safe return of teenager Elizabeth Smart to her family on Wednesday, March 12, 2003, nine months after her abduction from her bedroom in an affluent Salt Lake City suburb.

While many factors led to the Elizabeth’s return, including a viable lead from the Smart’s10-year-old daughter, Mary Katherine, the breakthrough was clearly a direct result of citizens who took the time to study the pictures of the alleged abductor that the family had earlier distributed through television and poster composites.

Michael Gibson, President of Operation Lookout, stated strongly the urgent need for more intense public involvement in the recovery of missing children, and added, “The need for citizens to take the time to really look at the photos of missing children cannot be stressed more urgently. This joyful return of Elizabeth to her family is all the proof that is needed. Not one, but two families called police after spotting the alleged abductor walking down the street in Sandy, Utah. Photos of missing children are available through various sources: flyers in the US mail, the Internet, and through child-find centers, including our own Website at www.operationlookout.org.”

Gibson offered further advice for how the public can help, “Get involved – it’s working! Help circulate missing children’s posters. Place a missing kids photo banner or link on your personal Website. When an Amber Alert is issued for a missing child, pay close attention to the information provided. Teach your children protection safety, which is appropriate for their age. Volunteer a few hours a month to a non-profit missing child center. These are just a few things that can make the difference. At Operation Lookout we have said for twenty years – ‘Every missing child deserves a chance to be found.’

Ed Smart, father of Elizabeth concurred today with similar sentiments, “All of the children out there deserve to come back to their parents the way Elizabeth has come to us.”

Over the past few decades, the issue of missing children has sadly fallen behind the headlines and, for the most part, public passivity was at an all time high. “That is changing now, because the public is finally realizing the important role they can play in helping to eliminate this national plight of our innocent children,” said Gibson.

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