Susan Smith made the nation's parents hold their children a little tighter
last week, as she tricked everyone into believing a menacing carjacker had
taken her children. Ramifications for her actions, though, are probably
going to go a little deeper than punishment and will probably mean
something to everyone.

As one (particularly a parent) reports a missing, battered or murdered
child, we do not typically think of a parent playing the role of the
abductor. As the Smith case unfolded last week, we now know that those we
do not suspect are not always innocent.

When a crime of this nature is reported, police need not rule out anyone
immediately. Smith spent nine days, along side her ex-husband, appearing as
a victim. Investigations of the incident did not necessarily lead the
police to ask questions about the incongruities of her story. It was not
until later, after three or four pieces of evidence were left unaccounted
for, that people began to examine her and her living environment a little
closer.

That's not to say that the police officers of Union, S.C., were not doing
their jobs. The incident, does, however, point out the necessity for more
careful evaluation in related cases. Time magazine, dated Nov. 14,
1994, cites statistics that children are "a hundred times more likely to be
taken by friends, loved ones and parents, than by strangers." Statistics of
this nature are alarming, but should really hit home.

Emotions are high in such a situation, and matters should obviously be
conducted with decorum, but parents and other family members should be
interrogated directly after an incident occurs.

Also, the nation has been up in arms over this particular case but has
failed to realize that a serious degree of media-blitzing has set the
agenda for us all. We should look at this travesty in South Carolina, learn
from it, but not dwell on it. Missing children are a sad fact of our
society, and we should never accept that fact without exhausting all
possibilities in finding them.