Children’s safety subject of event this weekend

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 22, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

America will observe National Missing Children’s Day on Sunday, May 25. Congressman J. Randy Forbes (VA-04) is encouraging Virginia parents to focus on safety and preparedness. In Suffolk, the Police Department’s Forensic Unit will host a &uot;Safety Awareness Day&uot; on Saturday, May 24, at the train station on North Main Street. Activities begin at 10 a.m. and run until 2 p.m., with events geared toward children from the ages of 1 to 12.

Suffolk Forensic Unit Supervisor Joan Jones said children can be photographed and have their fingerprints taken at no cost to parents. The forensic team will also do DNA swabs on each child, if the parents so desire.

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These types of information can help locate a missing child much sooner than if a child’s photograph and DNA are unavailable, and the Suffolk Police Department often performs such community services in an effort to protect children and prepare parents to help find a missing child.

The Suffolk Police Department’s Bike Unit will also be there for the children to talk with, and the animal control officers will come out to provide a little fun and information. The festivities will also feature Boy and Girl Scouts, clowns, and pony rides. Foods and beverages will also be available, and the parents of Suffolk are invited to bring children out for the event.

New survey results released this week by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), showed that 68 percent of parents have reviewed safety precautions with their children, an increase over 2002 data. At the same time, 85 percent of parents have established a plan of action with their children should they be abducted, up from 78 percent in 2002.

&uot;While the survey shows parents are actively reviewing safety precautions with their children, not all parents have the information often critical to recovering children when abductions occur,&uot; said Forbes, a long-time children’s advocate and member of the Congressional Missing & Exploited Children’s Caucus.

According to law enforcement officials, information such as height, weight, eye color and a recent photograph are essential when searching for a missing child. In contrast, the NCMEC survey showed that, overall, 23 percent of parents do not know the height, weight and eye color for all their children.

In 2002, there were 16,043 reports of missing persons in the Commonwealth of Virginia, according to NCMEC. Through March 2003, there were 3,867 reports of missing persons reported for the Commonwealth.

For both 2002 and 2003, the FBI estimates that from 85 percent to 90 percent of these missing persons are juveniles.

&uot;It is so important that we continue to increase public awareness on child abduction and exploitation,&uot; Forbes said. &uot;The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children works proactively with parents to educate their children on how to stay safe.

Suffolk Police Information Officer Mike Simpkins said the Missing Children Act of 1982 was the first federal law to address the issue of missing children.

&uot;The Act authorized the entry of missing children reports into the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Crime Information Center data base,&uot; he added. &uot;Two years later, the Missing Children’s Assistance Act was established and the Missing and Exploited Children’s Program was initiated.&uot;

Simpkins also noted that in 1983, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed May 25 as National Missing Children’s Day.

&uot;In each of the past 15 years, family and friends of missing children have joined together to plan events in communities across America to raise public awareness about the issue of missing children and the need to address this national problem,&uot; said Simpkins. &uot;Saturday’s events are an example of how a community, working together with law enforcement and other community agencies, can protect our children.&uot;

Web sites like provide valuable resources that enable parents to help prevent their children from becoming statistics.&uot;