As stories about child abductions flood television newscasts and fill the pages of newspapers across the country, the Valencia County Sheriff’s Department is taking a proactive position in helping parents protect their children.
In the next few months, the sheriff’s department hopes to be able to distribute 1,500 child identification kits to the parents of elementary school-age children in the unincorporated areas of the county. Valencia County Lt. Gary Hall said the kits may be a big help to law enforcement if a child is reported missing.
“We would have no way of identifying children otherwise because they’re normally not involved in government jobs or have a criminal history,” Hall said. “Because of their young age, it’s difficult to have a set of fingerprints on file. With the kits, it will provide us different measure of being able to identify them and return them safely to their parents.”
Because of budget constraints, the sheriff’s department is asking for the public’s assistance in purchasing the kits. Hall said a $150 package contains 100 kits and he hopes private citizens, civic organizations and businesses in the county will help with the costs.
“We currently don’t have anything like this at the sheriff’s department,” Hall said. “With school starting, we hope to get an early start in trying to prevent tragedies in Valencia County.”
The National Child Identification Program’s inkless fingerprint I.D. kit provides parents with a convenient way to record their children’s fingerprints and physical characteristics on a card they can keep at home. Including the inkless fingerprinting tool, each I.D. card contains step-by-step instructions, an area to practice fingerprinting and a standard fingerprint area.
There are also sections for recording the child’s physical descriptions, identifying marks, a space for a current photograph and a section for recording a doctor’s telephone numbers.
The National Child Identification Program began in 1997 when less than 2 percent of parents had a record of their child’s fingerprints. Now, more than 10 million I.D. kits have been distributed.
According to national statistics, 450,000 children run away from home every year, 350,000 children are abducted every year by family members and 4,600 children are abducted every year by non-family members. Although the numbers have shown there is a decline in missing children, the threat is still there, Hall said.
“We (Valencia County) haven’t had any recent child abductions, but we want to be prepared just in case,” Hall said. “This program works for children 4-years-old all the way up to 18. But we’re concentrating on the elementary-age kids right now.”
Hall said he hopes to schedule a day in October when the sheriff’s department can distribute the 1,500 kits to parents and schools. If anyone wants to donate money for the kits, contact Lt. Gary Hall at 866-2404.
Clara Garcia is the editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
She is a native of the city of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. During her time at the paper, Clara has won numerous awards for her writing, photography and typography and design both from the National Newspaper Association and the New Mexico Press Association.