Keeping track of our children

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 23, 2003

Did you ever have the experience as a child of being separated from your parents? Perhaps you were in the grocery store or a shopping mall. Maybe you strayed away or got separated by the crowd. Before you knew it, they were nowhere to be found and panic quickly set in, tears welled in the eyes and loud crying for dad or mom could be heard everywhere. What relief when you found each other! You can be sure they were as anxious as you.

Regrettably, there have been instances when children become lost and then are prey to people with evil designs on them. Worse, such sickos target youngsters and kidnap them. Elizabeth Smart is a popular example …and an exception, because she was found alive.

In 2002, there were 16,043 reports of missing persons in Virginia. Through March 2003, there were 3,867 reports of missing persons reported for the Commonwealth. For both years, the FBI estimates that from 85 percent to 90 percent of these missing persons are juveniles.

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This Sunday is National Missing Children’s Day, and in advance, the Suffolk 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.

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.

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.

Regardless of whether you attend and participate, now is the time to take similar steps. Just in case.