Free I.D. Program Helps Keep Children Safe
When a child goes missing, every minute is precious. Law enforcement needs accurate information and quickly. That is the mission of Operation Safe Child; to provide parents with an ID card for their children containing pertinent physical information, giving law enforcement officials a head start on locating or identifying a missing child. Courtesy of Assemblyman Blumencranz, this service is coming to the Hicksville Public Library tomorrow, November 2, from 3-6 p.m. The library is located at 169 Jerusalem Ave.
Statistics show that 34 percent of parents in the United States do not know their child’s exact height, weight and eye color. And, when a child is reported missing, time can be the greatest adversary. Possessing up-to-date photographs and detailed information about a child can prove to be important proactive measures that can greatly assist local law enforcement officials to quickly respond to a child’s disappearance.
Operation Safe Child was created in 2005 to raise awareness about child safety. The program was launched through a partnership with the New York State Police, New York City Police Department, New York State Sheriffs’ Association and the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police. Through their united efforts, the Division of Criminal Justice Service (DCJS) and its Missing and Exploited Children Clearinghouse have expanded Operation Safe Child into a multi-pronged campaign teaching parents and guardians tools to keeping children safe. In 2009, DCJS transferred the public outreach portion of the Operation Safe Child program to the New York State Sheriffs’ Association. This included relying solely on partner law enforcement agencies to handle all outreach events across the state. This did not change the DCJS role with respect to receiving Operation Safe Child record data obtained and submitted by partner agencies. DCJS continues to be responsible for accessing and using information during AMBER and DCJS Missing Child or College Student Alerts.
Using equipment that contains the latest digital fingerprinting technology and high resolution photography capabilities, 57 sites around New York State are able to produce a Safe Child card for parents and guardians. The cards contain a child’s name, biographical information (date of birth, gender, height, weight, hair color, eye color, etc.) and a fingerprint image of both index fingers. The card can be made in less than two minutes and can be easily carried in a wallet or pocketbook. Interested parents can choose to store the fingerprints, basic biographical information and photographs of children who are not missing — information critical to expediting the return of a missing child. The CORE office of Nassau County has successfully produced over tens of thousands of cards for children in Nassau County thus far.
In a recent pamphlet on the benefits of the program, Nassau County District Attorney Anne T. Donnelly stated, “The safety of our children is our top priority at the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office. We’re the proud local sponsor of the New York State Sheriff’s Association Operation Safe Child program, which creates identification cards for children. Since our partnership began in January 2008, we’ve brought the program to dozens of schools and local organizations throughout the county.
“To date, we’ve issued more than 13,000 Safe Child cards and we are the only DA’s office in the state to administer the program. I urge you to take advantage of this program which helps keep our children safe.”
The storage of information is entirely voluntary and requires the written consent of a parent or legal guardian. The information gathered is digitally recorded and stored in a database at the Division of Criminal Justice Services in Albany. In the event DCJS receives a missing child report, the fingerprints of that child will be included in a special search file and compared against all incoming fingerprints submitted to the agency.
These cards are not only helpful to parents or guardians, but for communities dedicated to keeping their children safe. As a child, I was offered the chance to have an ID card at my elementary school. My mother recalled the experience. “I believe it was when you were starting [Kindergarten], and we were notified that we could be able to get photos taken of you, and get you an ID card that you didn’t carry with you — your dad had one that he kept in his wallet, and I had one in my wallet — and it had a photo of you, and a description of you. So that if you got lost, or there were concerns about you being abducted, we had a very quick way to respond to the authorities.”
My mother felt the card gave her and my father a sense of security. “I felt a peace of mind with having the card. It gave us an awareness of, if all of a sudden you got lost or something, we had something immediately that we could use to provide a picture and details about you. Now I could have that with me at all times.”
And while a photo ID of your child might not seem necessary in the modern days of the iPhone, many parents still feel it provides an invaluable means of keeping a child safe. “Maybe there’s less of a need, but I still think it’s valuable,” my mother explained. “It’s one quick item that has everything you need to know. So if they have to make copies of it or circulate something, the information you’d need most is right there.”
Help bring Operation Safe Child to your local school, daycare center, or other place of business. For more information, or to schedule an Operation Safe Child event, contact: Fayola L. Charlet, Director, Office of Community Affairs, by emailing Fayola.Charlet@nassauda.org or calling (516) 571-0285. You can also reach out to the DA’s office at (516) 571-3800. You can also visit www.nysheriffs.org/public-safety-programs
—Additional information provided by the New York State DCJS