Special Report: FBI 'CARD Team' jumps into action when child goes missing

Tuesday marked the 20th anniversary of the disappearance of Diamond and Tionda Bradley, Chicago sisters who vanished from their Bronzeville home without a trace.

While child abductions like the Bradley sisters are extremely rare, when they do happen they demand a swift and serious response.

"A kid goes missing and then it is a lot of intense craziness that starts out right away," said FBI Special Agent Carrie Landau.

Landau is a Chicago-based member of the FBI's CARD Team, which stands for "Child Abduction Rapid Deployment."

Landau always keeps a packed bag nearby, ready to jump into action when a child goes missing.

"It really is, ‘time is of the essence,’" said Landauj. "A hopeful immediate phone call from that department saying, 'look, we're in over our heads. We need help.'"


Landau is based in Chicago and covers a 17-state area. She is one of about 60 specially trained agents nationwide.

Since starting in 2006, the FBI’s CARD Team has responded to 201 abductions or missing children reports.

Ninety-one children have been recovered and returned, while 88 were deceased and the rest of the cases are still undetermined.

"It's exhilarating when it's a positive outcome," said Landau. "When it's not positive, it's very difficult."

The CARD Team offers local police immediate access to the FBI’s latest technology in cellphone analysis, social media and video surveillance.
"Being trained agents that know how to splice and dice video," said Landau. "Who know how to get that up and running, and to be able to create that timeline that is of the essence."

The team also provides local law enforcement with access to the FBI’s behavioral analysis team – the profilers.

"Their job is to assist us in trying to figure out the best way to ask questions once we have a subject that is likely," she said.

In 2018, Landau was part of the FBI team that helped find the man who abducted a 10-year-old Calumet City girl, throwing her in his trunk and then sexually assaulting her before she was able to escape.

Bryan Protho was later convicted on a federal kidnapping charge.

"There were 35 local businesses and neighbors who assisted us in that case." Landau remembers. "They provided us with so much video surveillance that it was undoubtable who the offender was."

It is part of a larger effort to prevent child abductions. The FBI has also developed a child ID app in case of a parent's worst nightmare.

"What it does is allow you to take your child's picture and all their identifying characteristics you might need if they were abducted, and put it into an application where with one touch of a button you can shoot it all to your local police force if they happen to go missing," explains FBI Public Affairs Officer Siobhan Johnson.

If a Chicago kid does go missing, Landau will likely get the call. So is the work fulfilling?

"It is. It's amazing," Landau said. "It's rewarding. It's difficult. I can't think of anything else I'd rather be doing."