With a portrait of her younger sister, who has been missing for over 32 years, and photos of other missing persons from Hot Springs behind her, Lisa Allen tried to spread the message of child safety awareness to Christmas shoppers at Hot Springs Mall Friday and Saturday.
Allen's sister, Jeffery Lynn Smith, 16, went missing while walking home from school on Dec. 4, 1985, in Hot Springs, with her disappearance initially investigated as a runaway juvenile. It was reopened as a cold case in 2008 and an area search was conducted in 2010, but Smith's body has never been recovered.
Team HOPE, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, Hot Springs police and Allen were organizers behind the display at the mall, where interested parents could obtain free child ID kits and learn about a new digital ID app and other safety information.
"It's a threefold mission, to highlight my sister and generate new leads, highlight the other 29 missing or unidentified children in Hot Springs and to get the safety information to the hands of the parents," said Allen.
Allen became a consultant with Team Hope in 2016, after previously volunteering with the organization since 2007.
"I've taken a personal tragedy and made it into a healing process," she said.
"We reach out to families with missing children and we hope to bring light to them," Allen said, "It's so helpful to talk to someone who truly understands, who won't judge them, because we have been there. That in itself helps me to cope and to heal."
An estimated 400 people stopped by the table on Saturday, and over 200 received information from the display on Friday. Allen helped over 100 family members download the phone app called Safety Central, developed by NCMEC.
Allen said the app is more beneficial than a traditional ID kit. The digital format allows parents to have a "quicker and easier response rate" if or when a loved one goes missing. "You can upload your child's photo and fingerprints. This makes it easier to transfer to law enforcement and media outlets," she said.
It also allows users to download educational tips and resources from NCMEC's award-winning educational team, remain up to date on events and help law enforcement find missing children.
Police Cpl. LeeAnn Zaner, who helped organize the event, spoke highly of the effectiveness of the Safety Central app and said she hopes the public will stay alert about the importance of child safety.
Concerning Smith's case, Zaner said, "We would like for someone to come forward. We just hope to give the family closure."
Allen said this time of year is crucial for ongoing child safety awareness, as an average of 3,000 juveniles go missing in Arkansas every year, according to the missing person analysis from 2010-2015 from the Arkansas Crime Information Center.
"Since her disappearance was Dec. 4, I wanted to hold this event to commemorate her disappearance," Allen said, "It's never too late to get that information to local law enforcement."
Smith's case is still open and anyone with information about Smith or other missing cases should contact HSPD Lt. Duane Tarbet at 321-6789.Local on 12/27/2017
Print Headline: 32 years gone, missing child inspires child safety awareness