Through a collaboration between the Criminal Justice Institute (CJI), the Arkansas State Police (ASP), the Attorney General’s Office, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC), the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management (ADEM), Arkansas Community Corrections, as well as other state and local partners, Arkansas is the first state in the country to successfully obtain national statewide certification for Child Abduction Response Teams (CARTs), ensuring that all children in Arkansas are better protected if abducted, missing, or endangered.

Twelve CARTs have been formed across Arkansas. These multi-agency and multi-disciplinary teams, led by ASP Troop Commanders, are pre-organized and practiced to respond, substantially saving time and increasing the likelihood of the successful recovery of a missing, endangered or abducted child. Because of prior coordinated planning and the identification of resources, substantial time is saved and the likelihood of the successful recovery of an abducted child is increased. CART members include representatives from the ASP, local, county and state law enforcement, community correction, victim advocates, emergency management personnel, school personnel, and representatives from other key agencies or organizations.

In order to earn certification, members of the 12 teams formed attended a series of AMBER Alert classes. National CART certification is awarded through the U.S. Department of Justice, AMBER Alert and Technical Assistance Program. The delivery and coordination of all face-to-face courses were funded by AMBER Alert, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, and Governor Asa Hutchinson. Each CART was also required to implement a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with local law enforcement agencies and other key agencies and organizations. Certification also required implementation of statewide Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). A model MOU and statewide SOPs were developed by CJI in collaboration with all key partners. Finally, the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, the Arkansas State Police, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, and the Criminal Justice Institute developed a full call-out exercise built around a realistic child abduction scenario. AMBER Alert assessors evaluated the ability of each of the 12 CARTs to meet 47 standards covering 12 operational areas included in the developed exercise.

To maintain certification, there are continued annual meeting and training requirements. The Arkansas CART Executive Board will oversee the activities, policies, and operating procedures of all CARTs in the State. CJI will coordinate CART recertification and Arkansas CART Executive Board activities.

“Everyone involved in the Arkansas CART initiative has worked diligently for several years to ensure the entire state has access to trained, prepared CARTs when a child goes missing,” said Dr. Cheryl May, Director of the Criminal Justice Institute. “This has been an extraordinary team effort. I am so incredibly proud of the level of collaboration we achieved and the hard work and dedication of all of the ASP Troop Commanders on behalf of the children across our state.”

“Arkansas is leading the charge as the first state in the nation to receive statewide certification for our Child Abduction Response Teams, and I could not be prouder to participate in this collaborative effort among our law enforcement leaders,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Every day I strive to protect children and our most vulnerable from predators and bad actors. This multi-agency coordinated effort will streamline resources during a critical time and increases the chances that we will bring more children home safely.”

“Every state trooper is prepared to step-up and join with other law enforcement agencies across the state when it comes to reuniting families with a child that is in harm’s way,” said Colonel Bill Bryant, Director of the Arkansas State Police. “We are proud to be a part of the CART operation and will continue to be trained and ready. Arkansans can rest assured we are prepared to offer all available resources in equipment and personnel when a child’s life hangs in the balance.”