CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Local law enforcement partnered with the FBI to hold a child abduction exercise in Chesterfield County on Thursday.
The Charter Colony neighborhood was the center of this fake abduction, where most of the actors were members of the community.
“You only have one time to get it right and you have to get it right fast so you need to train for it,” retired FBI agent Jim Melia said.
As a former agent, Melia knows how important these types of training exercises can be.
“All of the instructors here have lived these child abductions,” he explained. “They have been all across the country when it’s happened for real.”
The FBI says the community’s participation is critical. Neighborhood volunteers offered their homes and their time.
“My husband and I were supposed to be the argumentative couple,” neighborhood resident Patricia Wood said. “Which helps law enforcement sift through what is important and not important.”
As a mother of two, Wood says it puts her mind at ease to know local law enforcement would be related if this were to happen in real life.
“If this were my child, I thought about that today and how I would try to keep calm and if this was a real-life scenario with a neighbor’s child,” she said. “Try to stick with the questions asked.”
The FBI joint child abduction rapid deployment teams travel across the country to train law enforcement.
“We try to confront the agents and police officer with real-life decisions that they’d have to make,” Melia said.
The planning takes months. But the goal is that this exercise is real enough to prepare them for the real thing.