The Edgewood Police Department received an TVEC Charitable Foundation grant for an innovative program that could be instrumental in helping to locate missing children.
According to EPD Investigator Robert Dearing, the system includes a digital database to significantly reduce the amount of time it takes to get critical identification information to first responders involved in the search. The voluntary program is provided at no charge to families.
“This allows us to go into our schools, and, with the parent’s permission, digitally fingerprint and photograph the kids and give them an ID card,” Dearing said. “Along with that, we then have a database which can send all of the information to first responders with the touch of a button to email or text.”
The first 48 hours of a missing child search is considered the most important, and, according to Dearing, this system can save valuable hours during a time when parents are most stressed.
“Finding a current photo, all of these things, it takes time,” he said.
For parents with privacy concerns, Dearing noted that the system is only used for missing children searches.
“This system cannot be used for criminal investigations, so hopefully that takes care of any privacy concerns,” Dearing said. “The records are also purged from our system at the child’s 19th birthday.”
The system is portable, allowing the department to visit individual school campuses. There is also a printer, allowing officers to create flyers for searchers in a matter of minutes, and every minute is important.
“It gives us more time actually going out to find a child,” Dearing said.