Have You Seen Me?
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.