By Kelci Parks
It’s every parent’s worst nightmare.
You’re in a crowded shopping mall and after putting an item that momentarily caught your interest back on the shelf, you realize little Johnny is nowhere in sight. Your heart races and panic settles in. Meanwhile, law enforcement officers need you to think clearly about things, like your child’s weight and what he was wearing.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has recently developed a new tool to help parents who find themselves in this terrifying situation. And the best part, this new tool can be carried with you 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
It’s a new application, commonly referred to as an “app,” designed for iPhones. The app sets a precedent, as it is the very first mobile application created by the FBI. It provides a convenient place to electronically store photos and vital information about your children so that it’s literally right at hand if you need it.
In Nevada, there are approximately 7,000 children reported missing each year according to the Nevada Missing Children’s Clearinghouse, Nevada Office of the Attorney General. These alarming statistics come from the National Crime Information Center, a law enforcement database.
Studies have shown that the first few hours after a child goes missing are crucial. Often, precious time is wasted while frantic parents, grandparents or caregivers attempt to think through the fog of panic and shock that often settles over those who find themselves in this situation. The new application can help to quickly disseminate information to the right people.
Parents can immediately share photos and physical identifiers such as height and weight with security or police officers. A special tab in the application also allows users to email the vital information to authorities with just a few clicks. Having these kinds of features right in the palm of your hand helps parents keep the most current picture possible to assist police with search efforts.
“It’s a great app,” said Nye County Sheriff Tony DeMeo, “because this is the problem; sometimes when people are missing their children we don’t have anything.
”Some of these pictures that we get are months old, years old,” said DeMeo.
”Things change, children grow. Children’s features change. And what’s really good about this is that the law enforcement officer actually has a current picture of the child, along with all the current information. And that picture, along with all the other descriptors, can be sent to every law enforcement agency across the country by the click of a button, including to the FBI,” he said.
Currently, the Child ID application is only available for use on iPhones and can only be downloaded from the App Store on iTunes. However, plans to expand this tool to other types of mobile devices are forthcoming. New features are also expected to be added.
The sheriff says that the iPhone is no stranger to fighting crime and acts as a valuable tool for most of his staff.
“The reason why iPhone is the first one to have an app of this kind is because iPhone is the one that actually has a lot more law enforcement applications. Our street crime uses the iPhone because we can actually do field reports on it,” said DeMeo. “They actually have an attachment for the iPhone where you can scan the retinas and put in biometric information. So, there’s a lot of technology with the iPhone that came out for law enforcement.”
Online reviews of the application complain that it is not password-protected, however most of the same reviews praise its other characteristics.
An article on the website, macnewsworld.com, reports that that the application also features one-button dialing to 911 and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
DeMeo said that he’s hopeful the new tool will help with the problem of children wandering off during many of the annual local events.
“It will help us during the fair and festival,” he said. “The majority of calls for service we get are for missing kids. It’ll give us a hand with that, because there are usually kids that wander off. All the parents have to do is give us that information and we can broadcast it to the other deputies that have the smart phones.”