CONWAY — Almost five months since she was seen leaving Kennett High School, Abigail Hernandez is still missing, but in the search for her, the Conway Police Department has learned some important things, among them that "we are not alone," said Chief Edward Wagner.
Hernandez left Kennett High on Oct. 9, and her disappearance continues to be at the center of an ongoing investigation by a number of law enforcement agencies.
During the early weeks of the investigation, representatives from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, based in Arlington, Va., came to Conway and worked closely with Conway Police, said Wagner, during a telephone interview on Feb. 27.
In the course of that work, the center's representatives invited Conway officers to attend a two-day class on how to respond to a report of a missing child. Wagner and Detective Sgt. Chris Mattei took the class on Feb. 23 and 24.
Established in 1984, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, according to its website at www.missingkids.com, has created "a unique public and private partnership to build a coordinated, national response to the problem of missing and sexually exploited children, establish a missing children hotline and serve as the national clearinghouse for information related to these issues."
Since its founding, the center says it has trained "more than 304,000 law enforcement officers, prosecutors and health care professionals."
The center touts its access to many public databases which can help with case-analysis and mapping and which Wagner, after learning about that capability, said was impressive.
What he and Mattei took away from their class at the center was twofold, said Wagner.
"This will broaden what we have and make it a little easier for us to respond" in the event of a missing child report, the chief said. The the other thing he and Mattei also came to quickly appreciate was that "the center has tons and tons of resources and I think that's what we got out of this class, that we're not alone."
Conway Police will update some of its internal policies based on what he and Mattei learned at the center, said Wagner, who pointed out that the center also validated a number of the department's current practices.
Overall, the class at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children was a very beneficial one, said Wagner.
"It was really good training," he said.