HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) – In the past week, 10 On Your Side has reported on a couple missing child cases across Hampton Roads.
“It’s probably the best feeling in the world,” said FBI Norfolk Assistant Special Agent In Charge Jason Bilnoski. “As a law enforcement professional, it’s probably the best feeling one can have, but it’s so much more important that we bring our victims home to their loved ones.”
Bilnoski said reuniting missing kids with their families is probably one of the best feelings one can have as a law enforcement officer.
In Virginia there’s nearly 500 kids currently missing, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
“When a child goes missing, everything stops,” Bilnoski said. “The FBI, including all our local partners, will throw everything we have to make sure we can bring that victim home.”
In addition to their 56 field offices across the country, they also have more than 70 offices overseas and can work with international partners too.
“In about 180 countries, we can pick up the phone and speak to an FBI agent who can work closely with our international partners,” Bilnoski said.
So with their global reach and extensive technical resources, and child abduction rapid deployment, or “CARD” team, they have a variety of means to bring victims home.
“In addition to our FBI resources here within the field office, anytime a child goes missing, we deploy the child abduction rapid deployment team,” Bilnoski said. “They’re stationed throughout the country and, in a moments notice, they will deploy to provide very unique resources and experience to help us locate missing children.”
Bilnoski also said time is of the essence when a child goes missing.
“The urban legend or misnomer that 24 hours has to pass before the FBI or law enforcement can take over is just not true,” Bilnoski said.
In the past week, the FBI has assisted on two missing child cases in Hampton Roads. This week also marks one year since a Norfolk teen was found safe thousands of miles away in Arizona.
Another case still top of mind for FBI Norfolk investigators, Amina and Belel Kandil, who went missing from James City County on Aug. 29, 2014.
Even though these two victims are still missing, agents never give up hope that they’ll be found safe.
“We can quickly have an FBI agent deployed anywhere in the country in a matter of minutes,” Bilnoski said, “so that allows us to help our local agencies by projecting our resources outside of the local area.”
Bilnoski said while stranger abductions do occur, they are rare.
He said recently, some of the cases they’ve dealt with involve victims who were lured away by individuals they met on social media.
“Criminals can target our youth within our community thanks to the advances in technology – so think internet, cell phones, social media applications – it’s a lot easier to prey upon your victims,” Bilnoski said.
He said criminal actors are quick to take advantage of technology, but agents can use that same technology to locate them.
“We can work with social media companies, phone providers and such to make sure we can legally advance our investigations to not only locate criminal actors but victims,” Bilnoski said.
Bilnoski also referenced a case where they used a gaming device connected to Wi-Fi to help lead them to a victim.
“Just like with cell phones in today’s age everything seems to be connected to the internet,” Bilnoski said. “For example, last year we were able to successfully bring home a victim based on their use of a gaming device, so through our legal authorities, we were able to track that victim and bring them home.”
Bilnoski said the FBI’s advice for parents is to be engaged with your kids.
“Make sure your kids know what dangers lie out there online,” Bilnoski said.
He also said there’s various privacy apps that you can download to help keep your kids safe.
They also have resources online for parents and caregivers.
The FBI also has a free Child ID app that you can download to store photos and vital information so you have it in case your child goes missing. Click here for more information on the app.