UTAH (ABC4) – From hiring cross guards to school resource officers, Utah police departments are working to help keep your kids safe this school year. In recent years, northern Utah has seen a handful of attempted child abductions near schoolgrounds. While police are doing what they can to prevent it, they are encouraging parents to get (or update) a child identification kit.
Child I.D. kits have been around since 1997. They are part of a national program that aims to help police find missing children as quickly as possible. The kits are evolving and becoming more accessible to parents than ever.
“This is totally safe,” West Bountiful Police Chief Brandon Erekson told ABC4. “This is something that you’d keep on hand, that you’d provide to us during the course of an investigation.”
Chief Erekson explained that thanks to a new program through the Utah Attorney General’s Office, his police department now has 5,000 child I.D. kits on hand for parents to pick up, take home and fill out. The kits are free.
Police departments across the state can participate in this program. Parents who would like a kit are encouraged to call their local police department and check if there are any available. If not, kits may be ordered online through the national program website. However, they are not free when ordered online.
“They’re actually a really great resource right at the very initial phases of a missing child,” Chief Erekson stated. The chief encouraged parents of children in middle school and younger to consider getting a kit. He said they may also prove helpful for parents with children prone to running off, or for adults with special needs.
“It’s really kind of convenient because it allows a picture to be attached to it so we can have something to send out to our officers in the field,” Erekson stated. The kits also have a fingerprint kit and spot for the person’s DNA. Chief Erekson emphasized that information is not stored by police. If a person has been missing for an extended period, DNA or fingerprints from the I.D. card may be used.
According to National Missing and Unidentified Persons, more than 600,000 people go missing annually. Thankfully, most cases are solved quickly. In Utah it’s no different, especially when children go missing.
“Typically, a lot of children have either gone to a friend’s house and forgot to tell a parent,” Chief Erekson said. “Or, actually, in many cases, they’re still within the home and have fallen asleep behind a couch or another unusual spot in the home.”
A large percentage of missing people is made up of children; around half a million annually. Many are reported to have been abducted. According to Prevent Child Abuse Utah, the vast majority of abductions of committed by parents, then family friends, and only a small percentage are committed by total strangers. In fact, around 90 percent of abductions are committed by a parent.
Some believe this type of abduction could be reduced in number through proper mediation.
“Too many times, I’ve seen people who were doing great and had no issues for even years and suddenly there is an issue and suddenly we’re fighting in court,” Jonathan Felt Stated. Felt is a family law attorney and mediator based out of Ogden. He told ABC4 that parents who are separating or divorcing should make getting a custody order their top priority because it even if they are getting along well at the time of the separation. “It tells both parents what they can and can’t do and often times, they’re crafted to protect both parents equally.”
Having a child I.D. kit on hand is a good idea for both parents.
With kids heading back to class, Chief Erekson said it is a good time to update the information and picture in the kit a parent already has. This should be done annually, and the beginning of the school year may be the best time to do it as another back-to-school task.