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Students at Georgetown Elementary School go through a line to be fingerprinted and photographed for the Operation Safe Kids program, which is sponsored by the Secret Service and gives parents identification information on their child that they can save in case their child is reported missing. Several parents volunteered to help with the program, which took almost the entire day. Students who were absent will get another chance to participate in the program in the next couple of weeks. Photos by Lee Cable

Operation Safe Kids comes to GES

January 25, 2012
Operation Safe Kids has come to Georgetown and could be coming to a school near you.

For a while now, Georgetown Police Chief Dennis Kunkle has wanted to collect identification information on the students at Georgetown Elementary School. Last week, Kunkle and his Georgetown police officers teamed up with none other than the U.S. Secret Service to get the job done.

The Secret Service offers the Operation Safe Kids program as a way to address the lack of identification issue facing many children. Unlike most adults who have driver's licenses and identification cards with photos and other information, children usually have little in the way of personal information documents.

On Friday, Secret Service Agent Jeff Ehringer, who works out of the Louisville field office, brought the necessary equipment and the Georgetown Police Department brought their officers and several parent volunteers to the school and began a day-long effort to electronically fingerprint and photograph each child whose parents signed off on the program.

"This is a great safety program," Kunkle said. "If one of these kids turns up missing, the parents will have instant identification information on the child and can make it available to officials. This gives us another tool to use when we are addressing a missing-child incident."

Georgetown Police Chief Dennis Kunkle, left, and U.S. Secret Service Agent Jeff Ehringer fingerprint a student at GES last week.
Kunkle said the forms with the photos and fingerprints are not retained by the school, Secret Service or the police department.

"Those are sent home with each child," he said. "The parent can then finish filling out the form with information about the child then store it in a safe place so it can be used in an emergency. We don't keep them. And we don't fingerprint or photograph any child without the parent's approval."

The Secret Service had five electronic fingerprint machines, complete with cameras, set up in the school's gymnasium. After being fingerprinted and photographed, each child was handed their form to take home. At the end of the line, Georgetown police officers handed each child an informational brochure to take home, as well.

In addition to protecting the president and vice president of the United States, the Secret Service's protective assignments includes assuring the president's children and grandchildren are safe. That assignment began for the Secret Service in 1894 when agents helped protect President Grover Cleveland's children, Ruth and Esther. Now, through the Operation Safe Kids program it set up in 1997, the agency promotes the safety of children all over the country by providing a way for parents to have emergency information available on their children.

More than 1 million children are listed as missing or runaways in the United States each year, and Operation Safe Kids was developed to help with that problem.

Georgetown Elementary is the first school in Floyd County to take advantage of the program, but Operation Safe Kids is available to all schools.

"There's no cost for the schools or parents for this program," Kunkle said. "The Secret Service picks up the expense. And I'm really glad Georgetown Elementary jumped on this. It could make a big difference in an emergency."

Any school wishing to take part in the program can contact the Louisville field office of the Secret Service in Louisville.

If your child is missing:

1.) Immediately call 911.

2.) Request that your child's name and identifiers are immediately entered into the NCIC missing persons file.

3.) Report your missing child to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children Hotline at 1-800-843-5678 (1-800-THE LOST).

4.) Notify the closest local Federal Bureau of Investigation office.

5.) Take note of where your child was last seen, what they were wearing and when you noticed they were missing.

6.) Report the missing child to friends and associates.

7.) All main telephone numbers should be staffed 24/7 in the event your child should contact home.

DIY DNA collection kit:

1.) Rub a clean, sterile, cotton swab on the inside of the cheek until moist.

2.) Let the sample air-dry for 24 hours.

3.) Place the sample in a Ziploc-type bag.

4.) Place the sealed Ziploc bag into another Ziploc bag.

5.) Label the bag with the current date and the child's full name.

6.) Store the sealed Ziploc bag in the freezer.

7.) Blood samples taken from a child's scrape or cut may be preserved in a Ziploc bag in the same manner. Baby teeth may be preserved in the same manner.

It's also suggested that parents take clear photographs annually of their child in the event they are needed for investigative purposes.

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