IDs for AMBER Alert
October 6, 2017
The U.S. Department of Justice reports that as of 2017, a total of 868 abducted children have been rescued specifically because of the AMBER Alert program. To send out an AMBER Alert, law enforcement needs photos and identifying information, and with cases of child abduction, time is of the essence.
In order to reduce the time involved, several rotary clubs developed the Rotary AMBER Alert Child ID Program for the state of Connecticut, and the Women’s Club of Danbury-New Fairfield (Connecticut) has been an active supporter of the program since 2003.
The Danbury Rotary Club purchased the first two systems in Connecticut, and currently operate five. A system includes a computer, camera, printer, cards, and instruction sheets for how to use the cards. Sheila Vetter, chair of the Women’s Club of Danbury’s program, explained that her husband, chair of the Rotary Club of Danbury’s program, reached out to her club to seek their help in keeping up with the demands of their successful program, which has enrolled 30,000 children. The clubwomen voted unanimously. “After all, young children and grandmothers are perfect together,” Sheila joked.
The club holds events, some of which have had up to 500 children attend, where parents can get ID cards for their children that help speed up the process of broadcasting an Amber Alert when a child is abducted. The card is credit card sized so that a parent can keep it in their wallet. It has a colored photo of the child, physical description (including height, weight, eye color, date of birth, and any distinguishing marks), and a unique ID number. Not included on the card are names or addresses so that if a parent were to lose the card, there would be nothing to lead a child abuser to the child. The child’s name and information is kept secure in a national data base which only state police communication centers can access. If the worst should happen, and a child goes missing, a parent can present their ID card to law enforcement, who then has everything they need to activate an AMBER alert if necessary.
“What I call the Wonderful Women jumped right in,” Sheila said to describe the women who work three hour shifts to run the computers, explain the program, hand cards out to parents, take the height and weight of children, and put in hard work to make it run smoothly. She continued, “We all love it and the kids are so cute. But the best are the parents who are so grateful we are volunteering to do this. It’s also been a challenge but fun to bring two very different clubs together into a cohesive working team.”
The Danbury Rotary Club was able to enroll more children than other clubs in the state because of the Women’s Club of Danbury-New Fairfield commitment, and that means because of them, more Connecticut parents have taken precautions to keep their children safe.
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MaryAnn shares her passion for volunteerism with young people through her work with the Massachusetts Youth Leadership Foundation.
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