A High-Tech Dragnet

A California kidnapping spurs a novel use of the information highway

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The three high-tech heroes wish they had moved even faster, because so far the trail has been cold. "It took us a week or so to really get started," French says. "All of this should have happened in the first few hours." Even so, the three have laid the groundwork for lightning-fast searches in the future. At some point, ordinary citizens linked by nothing but goodwill and a keyboard will be able to check nationwide bulletin boards devoted to cases of missing children. Toward that end, French is feeding a national directory of & fax numbers into a permanent database and is seeking donated computers for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Arlington, Virginia. Magid would like to see the computer networks set up the equivalent of a 911 number for missing-persons emergencies. When that kind of system is in place, girls like Polly may have millions of searchers looking for them.

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