Duxbury Police officers help locate missing girl in mock abduction training

It was a sweltering morning and a mock abduction exercise had left 13-year-old “Erin” unaccounted for on her summer school attendance sheet. Just past 8 a.m., a black Chrysler sedan snatched her up from her usual walking route near Norwood’s Westover Parkway and sped off to an unknown location.

While Norwood Police worked on putting out a simulated Amber Alert, the Metropolitan Law Enforcement Council – an area emergency response group was called into immediate action. The goals of the training were to secure Erin and capture her abductor. Wednesday’s true spotlight, though, was on MetroLEC’s overall performance; a successful one could make them New England’s first certified child abduction response team.

Like a scene from a modern cop thriller, cruisers and motorcycles from over 40 police departments including Duxbury poured into the improvised command post at the Cleveland School and quickly located their respective units. There were detectives, crisis negotiators, SWAT members, FBI officials, and state troopers. All of them worked with real-life pace from start to finish.

As K9 commander of MetroLEC, Duxbury officer Ryan Cavicchi’s job was to deploy with the SWAT team and help conduct “hasty searches” of large areas likely to contain a kidnapper and his victim. From cemeteries to local parks, Cavicchi and his canine partner, Zar, scanned the town for hours. His special skill sets and 12 years of experience with MetroLEC made him valuable in a crisis like this one, during which efficiency is king.

“This team is only one of a few in the country that is prepared to handle the unthink- able,” Cavicchi said. “We train for this but hope we never have to actually deploy for real life."

Back at the command post, Duxbury Sgt. Kristin Golden worked on the investigative side. According to a hired witness, the back plate of the Chrysler was obstructed during the abduction. With “3WB” the only known characters, Golden helped troll through a partial plate registry in hopes of identifying the car’s owner. She also scoured through a list of local sex offenders, knowing that most child abductions are short-term and involve sexual assault.

Although the scenario was provided to the Norwood Police Department, it was MetroLEC’s duty to find leads based on incoming calls and additional witnesses hired for the exercise. From the mobile command truck, agents studied maps of the area and ordered perimeters and roadblocks. In neighborhoods, officers stopped cars and asked drivers if they had seen anything unusual.

MetroLEC public information officer Lieutenant Marie Cleary told media that while the details of Erin’s case prompted a search, not all missing children reports require a response.

“If a young child goes missing near their residence, they’re often in the residence or the area around it,” she said. “When they hear their parent yell their name, they often stay hidden because they’re afraid they’re in trouble.”

It turned out Erin was still in the area. A few ticks after 11 a.m. MetroLEC’s SWAT team surrounded a black Chrysler in the back parking lot of St. Tim’s Church. The vehicle matched the original description. 

What followed was a rapid 40-second takedown. SWAT officers flung open the doors of their SUVs and had the abductor out of the car and in cuffs in a flash. Meanwhile, Cavicchi helped safely extract Erin and return her to her father nearby.

In three hours MetroLEC finished the drill with the best possible outcome: a safe child and an apprehended suspect. Now, they must wait to receive official certification as a CART squad. Both assessors on scene Wednesday will have 30 days to file their reports back to the Department of Justice, which will hand out a formal decision shortly after.

Assessor Alan Wolochuk said there isn’t any reason for MetroLEC to worry.

"This community should be very proud of the law enforcement partnership they have,” Wolochuk said. “Our recom- mendation is going to be very positive.”