All ended well for a 3-year-old boy who slipped out of his home in Seymour on Tuesday morning while his parents were asleep, but the outcome could have been much different, police report.
Officers turned to social media and went door-to-door to spread the word about the child found wandering about a block from his West Oak Street home shortly after 9 a.m.
The child, who was unharmed, was wearing only his underwear when found in the 1000 block of West Jackson Street.
He was taken by officers to the police station before being reunited with his parents after about an hour of being apart.
The reunion happened after an investigation into how he was able to unlock the door and leave the house without being noticed. The investigation was conducted by officials with the Jackson County office of the Indiana Department of Child Services, Capt. Carl Lamb said.
“It all turned out real well; we’re lucky he wasn’t harmed,” Lamb said. “It was a good teamwork effort.”
Lamb said the outcome could have been much worse if the boy had made his way into the street because he would have been hard to see by motorists, especially those in sport utility vehicles and larger trucks.
After the boy unlocked the door and went outside, someone saw him in the 100 block of West Jackson Street and reported the sighting to police at 9:18 a.m.
The boy was unable to tell police where he lived.
“We tried to get some information from him; but from a 3-year-old, that’s hard,” Lamb said.
Police decided to use Facebook to find the boy’s parents, and they uploaded a photo of him asking for the public’s help. Within 20 minutes, more than 300 shares were made from the page’s followers.
In the meantime, the boy, who never shed a tear, was given clothes and blankets, breakfast and a coloring book at the police station.
“We just talked to him, and the secretaries were also helpful,” Lamb said.
At the same time, officers were going door-to-door in the area where he was found and asking neighbors if they recognized the boy. They eventually came to the Oak Street home where he lived with his parents, who had awakened and realized he was gone.
Lamb said the Department of Child Services was called and inspected the home and talked with the family in an effort to reduce the chance of such an incident happening again.
The case also might be submitted to the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office for review, Lamb said.
He said the situation isn’t too uncommon because about once a month police receive a report of a child who has wandered away from home. It’s also protocol for DCS to investigate before a child is allowed to return home.
“They look at the home and make sure everything is all right,” he said.
In this case, DCS investigators made some recommendations about redoing the system that locks the door.
Lamb said neighbors were particularly helpful, offering blankets to the little boy, after he was found.
He also said social media played a role with hundreds of concerned people jumping at the chance to share the photo to get the boy reunited quickly with his family.
“We’ve found that in prior cases it can be quicker to put it out there on Facebook and our website because more people can access it,” he said referring to not only this situation but others including using the page to share photos of wanted criminals.
The page also has been used to announce hiring opportunities at the department and share photos of the Soap Box Derby event, and was even used in August to ask the public’s help in identifying a bank robbery suspect caught on security camera.
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The city police department’s page can be found by searching Facebook for “Seymour Police Department” and “liking” it.