After girl’s kidnapping, residents question officials, police at neighborhood meeting

About 200 people gathered Monday evening at Saint John’s Church to ask questions about the kidnapping of an 8-year-old girl in Ryan Place neighborhood on May 18.

Ongoing concerns about that night’s faulty Amber Alert, information going out on social media hours before police released it and overall safety of the neighborhood were discussed for about an hour and a half starting at 7 p.m. City officials took questions from the crowd, which was organized by the Ryan Place Improvement Association. The association’s president, Tim Keith, acted as moderator.

On the night of the kidnapping, a regional Amber Alert went out more than three hours after the girl was abducted while walking with her mother near Lowden Street and 6th Avenue. The Amber Alert did not go out properly due to a faulty fax machine at a command post on scene, but officials have already made changes to prevent such mishaps in the future, Lt. Ward Robinson said at the meeting.

After the changes, a fax is still sent to WBAP radio, but it will be followed up with an email and phone calls to make sure information is received, he said.

“Do we wish things might have gone differently? Yes. Do we wish things might have gone faster? Yes. But I can assure you that we are doing everything we possibly can to getting to the result of a child coming back safe,” Robinson said, prompting a round of applause.

Other residents asked why Fort Worth police released the name and description of the girl, a description of the suspect and the car he was driving two hours after residents posted that information on Facebook.

Robinson said police have to make sure information is accurate before posting it, and the photo that originally circulated of the suspect’s car was not clear enough to release specific information about it.

“As soon as we had information that was good information, we were broadcasting it through all of the police departments, and getting that info to media as quickly as possible, too,” Robinson said.

City Councilwoman Ann Zadeh took questions as well and said the city is working on improving communication in neighborhoods in all of Fort Worth.

One resident said the neighborhood is “dealing with post-traumatic stress,” and asked if she should continue to let her young girls walk home from school by themselves.

“Am I being stupid by allowing them to ride their bikes in this neighborhood, living along I-35, I-30 and I-20?” she asked.

Jerah Hutchins, who runs a self-defense training program, answered by encouraging residents to attend events to learn how to keep their kids safe. She mentioned a situational awareness seminar that took place Saturday where she said only 40 people attended.

“We can’t educate you if you don’t participate,” she said.

Officials also promoted a camera registration program where police can access residents’ footage — with their permission — if a crime occurs in the area.

Interim Police Chief Ed Kraus, who also took questions, applauded the neighorhood’s quick action the night of the kidnapping.

“It was beneficial to the recovery of that child that it happened in a community that is so engaged,” he said.

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