If your child goes missing in a store, the first place you should look is probably not where you’d think.

Where was the first place Adam Walsh’s parents searched when the 6-year-old child went missing at a mall Sears store on July 27, 1981?

They spent two hours searching inside the store for their missing boy, and then they called the police, say reports such as from nbcnew.com.

Reve Walsh wasn’t looking away from Adam for long by the time she returned to the toy section to retrieve him and saw that he was missing.

This scenario is actually common:

Parent “looks away for just a few minutes,” and then the child goes missing. If it turns out the child was abducted (lured away by a predator), it’s very fair to speculate that a mother dramatically increases her chances of catching the predator in the act  —  if she dashes towards the store’s nearest exit, which is likely where the predator is heading  —  victim in tow.

Or maybe the parent will spot the predator and her child outside walking towards his car, which again, puts her in a position to thwart the abduction.

Parents who worry about their child going missing in a store or mall should know the location of the nearest exit at any given time.

I asked Robert Siciliano, a personal safety and security expert, where is the first place a parent should look in a store if that’s where a child goes missing.

“As a parent, I’d go directly to the front of the store, near the entrance, so I can watch the door,” explains Siciliano, CEO of Safr.Me.com.

“Customer service is usually near the front as well. Bring it to the attention of customer service and they will bring it to security. Usually a code goes out on a PA alerting employees to be on the lookout.”

In the Walsh case, the PA system summoned him by name. Preceding that, however, while his mother was frantically calling out for him in the toy section and asking nearby shoppers if they’d seen him, those crucial minutes were apparently being used by the predator to whisk Adam outside to his vehicle.

What person, who abducts a child, lingers inside the store with the victim?

They usually have it all planned out. The moment they have gained the child’s trust, they lead him or her towards the nearest door to the parking lot.

Once the child is out there, while the frantic parents are searching inside the store, it’s a done deal.

Siciliano says that, if his own child went missing in a store, after alerting the security there, he’d give his mobile number to the store manager and look outside.

When children go missing in stores and then later turn up murdered or never found, one has to wonder if the abduction process could have been intercepted in at least half these cases, had the parent immediately bolted out the nearest exit.

It’s inconceivable that a perpetrator, once he has the child’s hand, would continue hanging out in the store or mall, knowing full well that a search is in progress.

“And there’s nothing wrong with causing a little scene to get other parents to be on the lookout too,” says Siciliano. “I’ve done it myself.”

This can be done while the parent rushes towards the exit  —  hollering out that someone possibly kidnapped their child.

Usually, when a child goes “missing” inside a store, they’re located safe and sound inside the building, having innocently wandered off.

But no parent spends the rest of their lives regretting that years ago, they had created a scene “for nothing” inside a store, bolted outside and searched the parking lot for a stranger with their child.

Robert Siciliano is a private investigator fiercely committed to informing, educating and empowering people to protect themselves and their loved-ones from violence and crime — both in their physical and virtual interactions.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.