Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Find Victoria Stafford

On the afternoon of April 8, 2009, an eight year old girl from Woodstock, Ontario, went missing. Victoria Stafford left her school at around 3:30 pm, and never made it home. As of this recording, she hasn't been seen since. Because the local police were virtually non-existent in this case, it is not surprising that they were on the business end of a lot of public outrage, until provincial police finally had to take over. Given the circumstances I'm going to try to be delicate about it, but I still have to agree.

To begin with, the Oxford Community Police not only did not call an Amber Alert, or immediately report Tori's disappearance to the public, but they didn't even call it an abduction. The Ontario Provincial Police did that themselves, a full nine days after she was taken. It seems that the only basis for any of these moves, is this grainy surveillance video, where a girl seemingly matching Tori's description is walking casually with a woman who remains unidentified.

Thankfully some sense is finally prevaling in this case, so far be it for me to tell a supposedly trained police officer how to do his or her job. However, my understanding is that if any adult other than a child's parent or guardian has taken posession of said child, and gone into hiding, then it is an abduction. It doesn't matter that much how nicely they do it. After all, how many children have been lured over the years with promises of candy, toys, or a puppy? What if Tori's abductor claimed that her family was in trouble? There are a lot of ways to trick someone who's trusting, whether they're a child or not.

Of course the further sticking point in this "logic" is that strictly speaking, it's impossible to be sure in the video if that girl is even Tori in the first place. For all we know, this could be any other mother and daughter, minding their own business, while the real Tori HAD been grabbed elsewhere. In other words, while the requirements of the Amber Alert are surprisingly strict, it seems that hiding behind them here is due to an extremely dangerous presumption. Another really stupid move was that the Oxford police seemed very certain that Tori is still in Woodstock -- but what can they possibly base that on, if they don't even know who took her in the first place?

My apologies if this rant comes off as a bit mean-spirited towards the local police, but the reality is that this girl can literally be anywhere. While the OPP is no doubt doing its best to leave no stone unturned, the fact is they can only do so much without the public's help. Tori Stafford is a thin blond-haired eight year old that was last seen wearing a black Hannah Montana Jacket with a white fur-lined hood, a green shirt/sweater with pink lettering, a denim skirt, black leotards and black shoes. The woman believed to have taken her has straight dark hair, is dressed in dark trousers, a white puffy jacket and a bag slung over one shoulder. She is described as white, 19 to 25 years old, about 5-foot-2 tall and 120 to 125 pounds. If you see anyone matching either of these descriptions, please call the Ontario Provincial Police at 1-888-310-1122. One way or another, let's all do our part to bring Tori back home. That's it for me.

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