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Wal-Mart keeps close eye on children

IN an effort to reduce the number of child abductions in stores and shopping malls around the country, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the Bentonville, Ark.-based discount chain, has implemented a new security program called ``Code Adam.''

The ``Code Adam'' procedure works with the cooperation of store employees. When a parent or guardian notifies a Wal-Mart or Sam's Club employee that his or her child is missing, the employee asks for the description of the child and announces a ``Code Adam'' over the store's public address system. Upon hearing the announcement, employees stop work, dial the store's address system to get the child's description, and then begin looking for the missing child. At the same time, employees monitor all store exits. If the child is not found within 10 minutes, the store will notify the local police department for assistance.

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The cost-free program was devised by a group of Wal-Mart employees in Crawfordsville, Ind., after hearing about a stranger who attempted to abduct a child in a shopping mall in nearby Indianapolis. The employees named the program after Adam Walsh, the 6-year-old boy who was abducted from a Florida shopping mall and murdered in 1981.

``This is a program that is up there with our other emergency procedures,'' says company spokeswoman Betsy Reithemeyer. ``Unfortunately I think that some other retail establishments don't put that same type of priority on a missing child.''

Since March 1, nearly all of the 2,500 Wal-Mart stores and SAM's Clubs in the US have been using the security program.

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