National campaign at the pump seeks to locate missing person
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children is undertaking a new effort to find fresh leads. Partnering with the national digital video network GSTV, the push for awareness is a first-of-its-kind campaign as screens at gas pumps across the nation highlight just one missing person at a time.
Motorists across the country filling up their tanks may now know about missing person Raymond Green, who was just five days old when he was abducted from his home in Atlanta on November 6th, 1978.
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children is working with video network GSTV, which says it reaches over 116 million monthly viewers through its gas pump monitors. With 28,000 participating fuel retailers located in 48 of 50 states, excluding Oregon and New Jersey, the three-week campaign to find Raymond Green began in February.
While there are no photographs of Green, a sketch of him made by a NCMEC forensic artist based on descriptions from Green’s mother show what he would have looked like decades ago when he was abducted. Another image, created using Green’s siblings and other family members as reference, has been used to estimate what he might look like today at age 44.
NCMEC and GSTV have partnered to solve missing persons cases since 2019. But the effort to find Green is the first time all screens nationwide were focused on a single case – an attempt to garner the most amount of visibility possible.
Senior vice president of business operations at GSTV Violet Ivezaj explains the new strategy.
“When we first started connecting with NCMEC, it was always about the why. Why feature missing children on the GSTV network and one of the biggest data points that NCMEC shared with us is that Missing and Exploited Children are often spotted at fuel retail locations where the abductor is, you know, stopping to fill up for gas. And so, there is a contextual relevancy there on most children are featured or abductees are captured and gas station locations. And so, we thought that was just such a relevant, you know, spot for us to start featuring that content,” said Ivezaj.
Ivezaj says more than 450 missing children have been featured on the GSTV network over the last four years – and many of them have been located.
“The success rate has been one in two of those children have been found, as a result of GSTV helping to feature these children on the network. A lot of that comes in from tips from viewers that are seeing something within the actual screen over to NCMEC’s hotline,” said Ivezaj.
Ivezaj says the proven success rate — combined with a growing network of gas stations that feature GSTV — made the national effort to solve Raymond Green’s case a “no-brainer.”
“In any given month, NCMEC is activating 25 states with regionalized content at a state level for children that are either missing from that state or are expected to be at that state and when we reviewed Raymond's case, we're so privileged to have the platform that we have to be able to really air that type of case across the thousands of communities that were a part of. It was an easy conversation for us to say yes, let's go all in and let's help find Raymond, let's push this out nationally. And it was the first time that we did do that, with any charitable organization, nonetheless with our partnership with NCMEC,” said Ivezaj.
Founded in 1984, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children has worked to relocate more than 376,000 missing children.
Angeline Hartmann, the organization’s Director of Communications, says Green’s case was originally brought to the center by his mother in 2007 after years of grief and a lack of concrete answers surrounding her son’s disappearance.
“You know, this is many years had passed and who knows what had happened to the case file, but they didn't have it. And she had to literally prove to Atlanta police that this in fact happened. And, long story short, ultimately, she went to the library, found an old article that was like a paragraph long. And it was in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. She made a copy of it, and went back to the police. And they said, ‘Oh, my goodness, you're right. This actually did happen.’ And she says that once she found NCMEC, she started to gain her voice back and she found support and encouragement and was able to talk about it,” said Hartmann.
Hartmann says it’s similar to another abduction case that was solved in 2022 with the assistance of NCMEC.
“This is the case of Melissa Highsmith. She was abducted at 22 months old, from Fort Worth, Texas and her family had been searching for her and searching and searching and searching. And last summer, the National Center got a tip that she might be in South Carolina, and that made national news and it's, you know, kind of encouraged the family to even get more involved. And so, they were kind… they had this momentum going. And the other family members entered their DNA in different ancestry sites. And so, one thing led to another and the end of November, they announced, that there was a match – a DNA match and that they had found Melissa Highsmith. 51 years later, she was alive and she's in Fort Worth just 10 minutes from where she was abducted,” said Hartmann.
After her safe return made national news, Hartmann says the results prompted the push for a wider awareness campaign to locate Green.
“We said, ‘Now the public is, you know, their eyes are wide open to how this possibility is out there.’ It was a possibility and Melissa Highsmith’s case and it happened, and it's a real possibility with Raymond's case, that he could be out there and have no idea who he is. Even 44 years later. Because for Melissa Highsmith, 51 years and she's out there. She had no idea and we believe it's really a possibility with him too,” said Hartmann.
The search for Green continues. Anyone with information is encouraged to call NCMEC’s national hotline at 1-800-THE-LOST.