“A parent’s worst nightmare is when a child goes missing,” said Richard Lucero of Neighborhood Watch. The group provides a service that gives parents and guardians peace of mind. They will create identification cards, with photos, description, address and phone numbers, which the parents can hand over to the police department should their child end up missing, for whatever reason.
The reasons may not always be sinister. A child may visit a friend or stay after school and forget to call home, but worry is a natural reaction when the child is late. However, often the cause for alarm is real. As the result of a custody dispute, a child may be kidnapped by the other parent.
“This is happening more and more these days,” said Lucero. Older children can run away.
Neighborhood Watch, as part of its ongoing fight against crime and the protection of the public, goes to schools, churches, businesses and health fairs offering the service. The identity cards also have a place for fingerprints, although Lucero advised that a child’s fingerprints aren’t fully formed until the age of 10.
“You can ask to have younger children fingerprints taken and we will do the best we can,” he said.
Some people may view the card system as suspect. The software by SentryKIDS is designed to destroy the data as soon as the card has been created and printed.
“No one should be concerned that we keep any data. Once the ID card is printed and given to the guardian, it is automatically erased by the software. We do not keep any databases,” said Neighborhood Watch’s Steve Wolfe.
Neighborhood Watch often takes its program on the road. Last week on Sept. 21, Richard Lucero and School Resource officer Gerry Hart went to Sierra Middle School, where 50 children were fingerprinted. Each child had to have parental permission before the ID cards could be made.
The service will be offered at K-mart on Saturday, from 10 a.m. until noon, and at Home Depot on Oct. 19, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.
“People don’t have to go to any of these outlets to have this done. All they have to do is call Neighborhood Watch at 622-SAFE (7233). That’s for individuals. If they want to do this for a group, then they need to contact Officer Lisa Brackeen at 624-6770,” Lucero said.
He does recommend that the photos and identification be updated periodically, especially with younger children.