Have You Seen Me?

Times of the Islands - - Departments - BY CRAIG GAR­RETT Craig Gar­rett is Group Ed­i­tor-in-Chief for TOTI Me­dia.

No one likes to think about it. But one im­por­tant tool po­lice have in search­ing for a lost or miss­ing child is up­dated pho­to­graphs and finger­print cards, a sort of driver’s li­cense. There are no lo­cal data­bases to re­trieve such in­for­ma­tion, but par­ents should doc­u­ment their chil­dren, to have cur­rent in­for­ma­tion avail­able in an emer­gency, of­fi­cials say.

South­west Florida po­lice agen­cies sup­ply par­ents, schools and oth­ers with child ID kits, which as­sist in lo­cat­ing lost chil­dren. Com­pleted kits can in­clude a cur­rent pho­to­graph, fin­ger­prints, char­ac­ter­is­tics or phys­i­cal fea­tures, med­i­cal in­for­ma­tion and other rel­e­vant de­tails, Chris­tine Chapelle with the Col­lier County Sher­iff’s Youth Re­la­tions Bureau says. Kits may only have an iden­ti­fi­ca­tion card and a thumbprint that fam­i­lies should keep se­cured and ready, she says.

Col­lier County and sur­round­ing agen­cies are ag­gres­sive in shar­ing the mes­sage at schools and other lo­ca­tions where par­ents are likely vis­it­ing. Most par­ents, Chapelle says, “are very happy to have [the in­for­ma­tion.] We’ve been do­ing it now for sev­eral years.”

Lo­cal, state and fed­eral law en­force­ment pro­vide some kind of child iden­ti­fi­ca­tion kit, in­clud­ing the FBI, which works with the Amer­i­can Foot­ball Coaches As­so­ci­a­tion. Some 800,000 chil­dren go miss­ing each year, nearly 2,200 a day. Most are run­aways or involve fam­ily dis­putes. Florida, how­ever, is con­sid­ered high risk for ex­ploita­tion and traf­fick­ing, re­search shows. South­west Florida par­ents at many func­tions will likely find a youth of­fi­cer or volunteer with sher­iff or lo­cal agen­cies. Mom, dad or a guardian would sign a waiver al­low­ing the child to be pho­tographed for an iden­ti­fi­ca­tion card and thumbprinted. The pack­age is re­turned to the par­ent/guardian for safe keep­ing― there is no record in data­bases, Chapelle says. Par­ents are also ad­vised to dis­cuss stranger-dan­ger strate­gies with their kids. Col­lier County, she says, has is­sued thou­sands of child ID kits in past years.

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