2006-10-27 / Community

Pataki To Host 'Safe Child Day' Throughout State

Governor George E. Pataki has announced that on Monday, October 30, 2006, New York State will sponsor its first SAFE CHILD Day to raise awareness about child safety. Initially launched in June 2005 through an historic partnership with the New York State Police, New York City Police Department, New York State Sheriffs' Association and the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police, the Division of Criminal Justice Services and its Missing and Exploited Children Clearinghouse have expanded Operation SAFE CHILD into a multi-pronged campaign teaching parents and guardians three tools to keeping children safe in today's world

The New York City event will be held at the Harlem Armory Center, 143 Street (btween 5 Ave and Lenox Avenue) from 2 to 8 p.m.

Know your child's information by obtaining a free SAFE CHILD ID Card.

Know your child's friends by learning about Internet safety.

Know your neighborhood by using the New York State Sex Offender Registry.

During SAFE CHILD Day, law enforcement officials throughout the State will be hosting 31 SAFE CHILD events at schools and community centers in 27 counties, in order to offer parents and guardians an opportunity to obtain a free SAFE CHILD ID card and learn more about available child safety resources.

"Government's greatest responsibility is to keep people safe. And as parents and guardians we must do everything within our power to ensure the safety of our children," Governor Pataki said. "Operation SAFE CHILD was created to ensure that teachers, parents and law enforcement officials have every tool they need to help protect our most valuable resource-our children. By obtaining a SAFE CHILD ID card, utilizing the State's Sex Offender Registry and teaching our children the safest ways to use the Internet, we can prepare our families in the event the unthinkable occurs-a child is missing, and give our law enforcement officials the tools they will need to bring the missing child home quickly and unharmed."

"As always, New York State will be implementing a number of measures so that all of New York's families can have a safe and enjoyable Halloween. Operation SAFE CHILD Day is a great opportunity for parents and guardians to learn more about safety precautions and measures that can be taken to ensure a safe and happy trick-or-treating," the Governor added.

In addition to offering free SAFE CHILD ID Cards, each of the SAFE CHILD locations will have information regarding the State's Sex Offender Registry, which individuals may access via the Internet in order to learn about sex offenders living in their communities; as well as information about Internet safety. To date, more than 90,000 of New York's children have participated in the SAFE CHILD ID Program and have obtained SAFE CHILD ID Cards.

Director of Criminal Justice Chauncey G. Parker said, "A missing or endangered child is one of the worst nightmares a parent and family could ever encounter. New York State offers a number of resources and services that can help families avoid unnecessary dangers and prepare for the worst-of-the-worst situations. I encourage all parents in New York State to participate in the Operation SAFE CHILD campaign. By learning as much as possible about child safety tools, we can make the most informed decisions about the best way to keep our families safe."

Statistics show that 34 percent of parents in the United States do not know their child's exact height, weight and eye color; and, when a child is reported missing, every moment counts. Possessing up-to-date photographs and detailed information about a child greatly assists local law enforcement officials to quickly return a missing child unharmed.

Using equipment that contains the latest digital fingerprinting technology and high resolution photography capabilities, 31 sites around New York State are able to produce a SAFE CHILD ID card for parents and guardians.

The cards contain a child's name, biographical information (date of birth, gender, height, weight, hair color, eye color, etc.), and a fingerprint image of both index fingers. The card can be made in less than two minutes and can be easily carried in a wallet or pocketbook. Interested parents can choose to store the fingerprints, basic biographical information and photographs of children who are not missing - information critical to expediting the return of a missing child. The storage of information is entirely voluntary and requires the written consent of a parent or legal guardian. The information gathered is digitally recorded and stored in a database at the Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) in Albany. In the event DCJS receives a missing child report, the fingerprints of that child will be included in a special search file and compared against all incoming fingerprints submitted to the agency.

In addition to being able to quickly provide important details to police agencies investigating child disappearances, the New York State SAFE CHILD ID Card will serve as an important tool when used in conjunction with the New York State AMBER Alert and Missing Child Alert programs. These identification cards will allow essential missing child information to be electronically disseminated, statewide if necessary, within minutes and dramatically increase the possibility of bringing a missing child home unharmed.

The development of the Internet has been called the most profound change in the way the world communicates since the invention of the printing press. The Internet offers exciting and unprecedented opportunities for children and families to obtain and share information. In our rapidly changing world, however, all roads to the Internet are not as safe as they may seem.

Statistics indicate that one in four children using the Internet have had an unwanted exposure to sexually explicit pictures, approximately one in five children have received a sexual solicitation or approach, one in 17 have been threatened or harassed and one in 33 have received an aggressive sexual solicitation.

While these statistics are troubling enough, the popularity of social networking sites and "blogs" have made our children even more vulnerable. While these sites provide unprecedented opportunities to meet and interact with others, these sites also allow users to provide very detailed personal information to strangers. These types of interactions created by social networking sites have created a direct communication line to our children.

Since parents and guardians play such a crucial role in promoting online safety, the Division of Criminal Justices' Missing and Exploited Children Clearinghouse has developed a 45-minute Internet Safety presentation for parents and teachers that focuses on providing straight-forward information about the safety challenges created through the Internet and preventative actions that can be taken to protect our children. This presentation is also available on the SAFE Child website, www.operationsafechild.org.

New York State's Megan's Law became effective in 1996, and was expanded in 1999, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2006 and requires a sex offender convicted for a registerable sex offense to register with the State's Sex Offender Registry; currently there over 40 registerable offenses and more than 23,000 registered sex offenders living in New York State.

New Yorkers interested in obtaining information about sex offenders living in their communities can use the Internet sub-directory search at www.criminaljustice.state.ny.us to search by offender name, county and zip code, or by calling the sex offender information line, (800) 262-DCJS/3257 and providing one of four identifiers for the individual they are inquiring about: drivers license number, social security number, date of birth or exact address. By using either of these resources, interested individuals are able to verify if someone is a sex offender, and, if the offender is a level 2 or a level 3 sex offender more information including the crime of conviction, modus of operation and type of victim targeted will be available.

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