Stanley Patz is the father of 6-year-old Etan, who disappeared from a lower Manhattan street in 1979, making him, arguably, the most well-known missing child in New York City, as well as the first to appear on the side of a milk carton. Until last week brought another missing boy to the forefront of our attention both in the city and worldwide. With the tragic discovery of parts of Leiby Kletzky’s body in both a dumpster and the freezer of his confessed killer Levi Aron has come a renewed focus on how to prevent such tragedies from occurring. The New York Times City Room blog reports that Patz has long been “conditioned” to expect a phone call whenever a child is missing in the city — just another layer in the horror that parents in such situations must deal with. In the case of Leiby Kletzky, Patz did, in fact, have a suggestion to give.
After brooding over Leiby’s murder for a few days, Mr. Patz wondered, why not put a basic, emergency cellphone in the hands of every child? At the press of a button, children who are lost or in danger could dial 911, Mr. Patz reasoned.
And, if the phones had global-positioning chips in them, they could help authorities track a child’s whereabouts.
Perhaps, he added, it would be known as a “Leiby phone.”
And why not? The concept has been tried before — but for a cost. Maybe it’s time to try again.
At the same time, parents are asking the Department of Education to lift the public school ban on cell phones in light of Kletzky’s murder, reports the New York Daily News. Mayor Bloomberg agreed on his weekly radio show that cell phones are a key way for parents to know where their kids are, but his spokesman Stu Loeser says he won’t reverse the rule in schools as cell phones are “major distractions.”
Etan Patz was legally declared dead in 2001. Jose Antonio Ramos, a convicted child sex abuser in jail for child molestation, admitted to involvement in his disappearance and was declared responsible in 2004 in a civil case, for which a “symbolic” $2 million was awarded to the Patz family. They never collected the money. Manhattan D.A. Cy Vance, Jr., reopened the case into his disappearance in May of 2010. Ramos is up for release next year.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 18, 2011