By Denise Gee Peacock
Lieutenant Stacie Lick, with the Gloucester County Prosecutors Office in New Jersey, has served as her county’s Child Abduction Response Team (CART) Coordinator since 2008. That year she helped create her state’s first CART – assembling its specialized resources and personnel while devising its policies and procedures that, 14 years later, have become a model for CARTs across the country.
In the spring of 2022, the Gloucester County CART met another milestone: It became the first CART in New Jersey to be certified by the U.S. Department of Justice.
The Gloucester County CART has 120 resources that can be activated in response to a child abduction. The team also relies on a 100-page manual of protocols that Lick helped develop for missing child investigations (which the AATTAP has incorporated into its CART training materials).
Currently, Lick oversees the Gloucester County Special Victims and High-Tech Crimes Units, specializing in cases involving crimes against children and human trafficking. From 2017–2020, she helped acquire funding to build and equip the Child Advocacy Center (CAC) of Gloucester County. The CAC serves as a safe place for children to share their stories of abuse to professionals trained in forensic interviewing, and houses a Special Victims Unit that Lick also helped create. After earning a B.A. in criminal justice from Temple University, Lick entered law enforcement in her home state in 2000, and now raises her family close to where she grew up.
The AATTAP recently connected with Lick for an interview about her time in law enforcement and child protection work, what she has learned along the way, and her vision and goals for the future.
What drew you to your field of work?
When I first started work at the Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office in 2003, there wasn’t a big focus on missing and endangered children. No one specialized in it. So as a newer, younger detective, I thought I would do that, and work to help kids in our community. I wanted them to get them the attention they deserved.
What motivates you when it comes to missing and endangered children?
The work is extremely rewarding. Especially helping high-risk, endangered kids who have left home because they’re not happy with what’s happening there. I’m grateful to be able to listen to their stories. To be their voice when no one believes them. To get them the services they need to move forward.
What provided you the opportunity to create the Gloucester County CART?
In the fall of 2008, Sean Dalton, then the Gloucester County Prosecutor – the county’s chief law enforcement officer – called me in and said, “I’m tasking you with creating and managing a Child Abduction Response Team (CART). You can choose someone to work with you, and I want you to go to training.” So my partner, Bryn Wilden, and I attended a NCJTC pre-CART training, and were astounded to hear our State Attorney General, Anne Milgram, thank our very own prosecutor [Dalton] for his innovative CART work. She then announced that our state would be required to have a CART in all 21 of its counties. Knowing our county’s prosecutor had spearheaded the plan for the entire state really motivated us. We knew we had to represent the plan well. And thankfully we have the continued support of Acting Prosecutor Christine Hoffman.
What were the greatest challenges during the process?
Finding the right personnel for the team. We approached it by going to all the team chiefs in the municipality and asking, “If your child were missing, who would you want working the case?”
What traits do you look for in a CART member?
I look for people with a passion for the work and a dedication to their agency; people who make safely recovering a missing child the priority during an investigation. Such passion and dedication are an indication of how that person will respond during training and deployment.
What are your thoughts on CART training?
We train twice a year to stay updated on resources, policies, and procedures. We also review case studies to learn what went right and what didn’t. And we have mock activations to help build muscle memory. We don’t even have to think about what we’re doing; we just do it.
How do you sustain your CART?
I have a list I’m pretty proud of: It has about 120 resources from all 19 municipalities in our county — from K9 handlers to trash stops. I update it once a year. I also invite CART liaisons to suggest people they think should be involved and open our training to first responders interested in helping.
What goals do you have for your CART?
I’d like to improve our volunteer program. I created an application and waiver form for them, which is helpful, but I’d like to recruit more of them. We recently had about a dozen volunteers show up to help for our recent certification process. Even my daughter volunteered! I could tell she enjoyed the process.
What would you say to a law enforcement agency that is ‘on the fence’ about developing a CART program?
Having specialized resources and trained personnel is a tremendous asset to the victims and their families. Personally, I don’t understand how agencies can operate without them. A CART is everything but the AMBER Alert. You have a search and canvass team, legal expertise, victim and family advocates, a volunteer coordinator, someone handling the media, and more. This lets the community see you’re doing everything you can – and not wasting time trying to find resources. Also, administration liability is huge in missing child investigations. It’s not what you do, it’s what you don’t do. Having a CART protects you when you have established policies and procedures that you follow to a ‘T.’