Thursday, August 26, 2010

Critiquing another scare tactic courtesy of the local media

John Walsh Courtesy photo
Living in the Shoals is not all that great with all the fear-mongering and small town thinking resonating around this place. So it comes as no surprise to see a scare tactic in the local sale paper advertising that Big Brother child fingerprinting and DNA kit sponsored by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. What better way to get everyone to turn in their children's DNA to our federal government than by scaring you into believing your child's kidnapping is imminent? The TV show "South Park" covered the child abduction panic quite nicely. At any rate, I will break down this article and expose it's myths:

FLORENCE–Every 40 seconds in the United States, a child is kidnapped.

COMMENTS:  That is not true. In the NISMART-2, the definitive study of missing persons cases, and ironically sponsored by the NCMEC, found that in one year, there were 797,500 missing person reports, hence, the "every 40 seconds" bit. There is one major flaw in this logic. The NISMART-2 includes all missing person cases, including runaway children. The majority of missing person reports are of runaways. Of those who aren't runaways, the vast majority of "abductions" were by non-custodial parents. In fact, out of those 797,500 missing reports, only 115 were the so-called "stereotypical kidnappings" that people fear the most.

Law Enforcement officials insist that time is critical in the recovery of a missing child. Currently, there are over 603,000 registered sex offenders, threatening the safety of our children. That number grows daily children. That number grows daily and doesn’t include those with criminal minds who have simply not had the opportunity to take a child.

COMMENT:  There are over 700,000 Registered individuals across the USA, but most are not a threat to children. Granted, we live in a state where we prosecute teens who have consensual relations with teens three years apart in age. The vast majority of sex crimes occur in the home, by a person the victim already knows and trusts, like a parent, and is most likely someone not on the sex offender list. Ninety-five percent of sex crimes are committed by someone not on the registry.

The John Walsh Child Safety Program equips parents with the vital tools needed in a crisis which can save law enforcement precious hours or days. 

Elkins Funeral Home at 1535 Hermitage Drive in Florence is sponsoring a DNA LifePrint Child Safety Event Saturday, August 28, 9:30am-2pm in the Elkins parking lot. 

COMMENT:  I've never understood how they figure child fingerprinting and DNA helps prevent kidnapping. Honestly, it is more about data mining than anything else. A picture of the child is generally the biggest help in located a missing person. DNA would only be valuable in very rare incidents, like if a child is killed or dies from an accident out in the woods like that child in Arizona did recently.

Also joining us will be the Florence Police Department SWAT Team and the Florence Fire Department with Sparky the Robot and the Fire Safety House, Face Painting, and Bike Raffles.
Biometrics is the newest and most advanced technology available today for obtaining fingerprints. It is the same equipment presently used by Federal Agencies, Law Enforcement, and the US Military. Law Enforcement officials know that time is critical in the recovery of a missing child. The Biometric Technology allows a child’s fingerprints to be immediately submitted into the FBI Database as soon as they are reported missing. When the child’s fingerprints are entered into the FBI Database, the fingerprints become immediately available to all law enforcement agencies throughout the United States. 

COMMENT:  Again they make the statement time is of the essence. However, law enforcement is NOT going to set up roadblocks and fingerprint every kid matching a general description until they find a match. The technology has improved but is not infallible, and somehow I find it difficult to believe smaller police departments like Florence has them equipped in all squad cars.

The program is endorsed by John Walsh, host of the popular TV show, America’s Most Wanted.
Detective Sergeant Joe Matthews, a retired supervisor in charge of the homicide division for the City of Miami Beach Police Department, founded DNA LifePrint in association with Walsh after solving the nationally publicized “Baby Lollipop” homicide. 

During his 35 year career as a criminal investigator, Matthews supervised and conducted over 20,000 criminal investigations and over 2000 death investigations. He has obtained confessions and convictions in numerous high-profile cases including several serial rapists. Matthews serves as an analyst/consultant with Fox News, USA Today, Associated Press, America’s Most Wanted among others. 

COMMENT:  The combo of Walsh and a Miami cop raises a red flag with me personally. Walsh has plenty of criticism for lying before Congress and inflating statistics and making outlandish public statements, while Miami has become an international embarassment for forcing registrants to live under the Julia Tuttle Causeway bridge. 

Those attending the event Saturday will receive: 

• a FREE FBI Certified Biometric 10 Digit Fingerprint Profile.
• a FREE high resolution full color Digital Photograph of your child.
• a FREE Child Safety Journal which will provide law enforcement officials with all the necessary vital information about your child and other important facts they will need immediately after a child is reported missing.
• a FREE Home DNA Identification Kit that is easy to use and lasts through generations.
There is no databasing: After each child goes through the line, parents are handed a Child Safety Journal which contains the Biometric Fingerprints, a Digital Photo, and a DNA Kit. The DNA Kit contains detailed instructions on how to use the DNA Kit at home. The only record of the visit is handed to you to take home: The event sponsor keeps no records on file. You will also be given John Walsh’s Child Safety Tips. All the information provided at this Child Safety Program is recommended by child safety experts and law enforcement officials to be updated every six months. 

COMMENT:  They may not "keep records" at this event, by my ex-girlfriend went to one and they took records of her kid at that time. There must be some money made on the kits since now you need to do it "every six months." Why? Does DNA and fingerprints change so drastically that six months later you have a fresh set? This may be all "voluntary," but someone's getting paid for this.

If a child comes up missing, parents greatly increase their chance of quickly recovering their child if they immediately provide a FBI Certified Biometric 10 Digit Fingerprint Profile, a DNA Sample, a High Resolution Full Color Photograph, and current statistical information.

COMMENT:  I'm a bit guilty of using the oxymoron "comes up missing," but it is still funny to see it in print. Anyways, the picture I can understand, but considering it takes weeks for DNA testing, I fail to see its value except in identifying old remains or something.

The bottom line: The NCMEC makes money off of these kits, though they have limited value at best. For the most part, a good pic is all you need with a description. Most of the time, however, cases are events like runaways or a kid spending too much time somewhere he should not be, or went to a friend's house without permission. My brother ran away three times in a year when I was a kid, so some of those "missing person" reports are of the same person. If you feel this is valuable, don't let me stop you, but personally most anything the NCMEC sponsors should be taken with a grain of salt.

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