SAFE CHILD helps in search for missing childrenTRI-COUNTY AREA—It is something no parent wants to think about, but what happens if your child went missing?
Operation SAFE CHILD was created in 2005 by the Division of Criminal Justice Services for just that reason. However, now the New York Sheriff’s Association is taking over. Yates County Sheriff Ron Spike explained that the DCJS asked the association to take over because there was not enough funding any more. Steuben Sheriff Joel Ordway said Gov. David Paterson decided not to fund it next year.
Spike explained that the free program created a database entry of a child which is stored in Albany. He said it is accessible in another state and contains information on that child, including a photograph, finger prints, and anything distinguishable about them. The parents also get a card with their child’s photo, fingerprints, and an ID number on it. Kim Rawleigh, SAFE CHILD coordinator for Steuben County, said that if a child is lost, the parents call the number of the card after alerting the police.
“It’s a proactive effort to have the card with the name and biographical information,” said Spike. He added the information is immediately available if a child goes missing. Spike said that if an Amber Alert is issued, the information is also available.
The process to create the card is quick, only as long as it takes the parent to fill out a form and have the child’s picture taken. Depending on the sheriff’s department, the equipment is also taken to different events each month. Rawleigh said she takes the equipment out around five times a month. Her trips include going to schools and daycare centers. Both she and Spike said parents or guardians can call the area sheriff departments and even make an appointment to create the cards right there in the office. Ordway explained that the DCJS helped provide the initial money to purchase the equipment.
Rawleigh said that the SAFE CHILD program keeps information in the database until a child turns 18. She added that children as young as a few months old can also put into the database, but the finger prints are not always readable. She also said that at any time if a child is put into the database again, the old information is replaced with the new photo and information.
For more information, visit http://www.criminaljustice.state.ny.us/pio/safechild.htm. The Web site includes a calendar listing of where the SAFE CHILD program will be in the future.