Having your child’s fingerprints and photo ready to give to law enforcement in case of an emergency isn’t a new idea, but one organization is helping Kansas City area parents obtain the information more easily.
Operation Kidsafe is partnering with Hendrick Lexus at 6935 W. Frontage Road in Merriam to make a fingerprint station available for free to anyone who wants to use it.
The station will be open to families at a kick-off event at 10 a.m. Sept. 24, and it will be available anytime the dealership is open for business for a year.
This is the first fingerprint station to be available for more than just a weekend event in the entire state of Kansas, said Mark Bott, founder of Operation Kidsafe, based in Springfield, Ill.
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Operation Kidsafe does not currently have a booth like this in Missouri, but Missouri families can use the Merriam location.
Operation Kidsafe has been placing these machines for about a year and has 41 others throughout the United States and Canada. Previously, it did events that lasted a day or so.
The machine takes a child’s fingerprints digitally on a scanner, then snaps a digital photo. The machine does not store the photo or prints but simply prints it out for the parent to take home, Bott said. The process should take less than a minute per child.
“We have two rules. It has to be free, and it has to be private. We don’t database,” Bott said.
Parents will not have to provide the child’s name or any additional information about their child, other than the fingerprints and photo that are part of the service.
Because he does not keep track of who uses the machine, Bott said he doesn’t have any statistics on how much it has helped to have these printouts in actual dangerous situations.
“Our hope is that we’re going to hand (parents) a form they’re not going to use anyway,” Bott said. If a situation does arise, “they can hand this to law enforcement,” who can put this into the National Crime Information Center database, he said.
This information isn’t just to help in case of an abduction. Parents can give these cards to law enforcement officers if their child runs away. Officers here can put the prints from the card into the system, and if the child is caught by officers in another state, the database will let that police department know who to contact.
Caregivers of special needs adults are welcome to use the station as well, Bott said.
Bott said his work to help establish Amber Alerts as law and working with John Walsh of “America’s Most Wanted” got him interested in doing more to help law enforcement officers act when a child is in danger.
“Our goal is to get the families to start discussing safety and have an action plan,” said Bott, who has seven children. “This is only one part of a safety plan. Will fingerprints save your child? You don’t know that.”
Each form the machine prints with the fingerprints and photo will come with a list of safety tips on the back for parents to talk about with their children.
Paramount among these, Bott said, is the “check first” rule. This means that a child should have a rule that if anyone asks him or her to go anywhere, that child has to check with the adult in charge before going anywhere, even if the person is not a stranger.
Bott likes that this rule is transferable to many different situations. At school, the person to check with would be a teacher, and at home it might be a parent or a babysitter.
“You teach your child that if anyone approaches you, if they ask you to go anywhere, do anything or take anything, you run as fast as you can inside to check with the adult in charge,” Bott said. “It takes the burden of child of safety off the child and puts it on the caregiver.”