Approximately 230 children in Oro Valley have had their fingerprints taken and essential information compiled on an identification card kept only by their parents.
Child identification kits have been distributed through the Oro Valley Police Department, which discards the information as soon as the cards are printed.
"Everything that is needed for an Amber Alert is contained on this one document," said Yolanda Hallberg, OVPD community resource officer. "That's what makes it so valuable."
OVPD decided it "wanted to provide parents with a sufficient way to keep children safe," Hallberg said. "So we investigated several child ID programs."
The company Sentry Technologies provides software to organize digital fingerprints and other descriptors such as height, weight, hair color and birthmarks on an 8-by-11-inch sheet printed on card stock and given to parents.
The card has a place for the child's picture. Dental records, instructions on how to obtain a secure DNA sample, instructions on what to do in case the child is missing, emergency locations and phone numbers are included.
Parents keep the card in a safe but accessible location. Selected family, friends and neighbors should be informed of the card's location.
Carin Duryee, coordinator of Project Safe Childhood within the U.S. Attorney's office, vouched for the importance of child ID kits.
If a child is missing, "parents might not want to be looking through the house for DNA," Duryee said. "You hope you don't need it, but it's nice to have if you do."
"Most parents are so upset that they can't even find a recent photo," Hallberg said. "With these cards, no matter how upset a parent is, the info is in one place and accessible."
OVPD encourages the cards be updated annually.
Hallberg related an experience in which a child was reported missing. The child was a victim of custodial abduction from an Oro Valley apartment unit that Hallberg had visited two days beforehand. That child was not in the identification program.
"It was really too bad," said Hallberg. "It would've made things a lot easier."
On May 25, National Missing Children's Day was recognized at the Tucson Mall, with representatives from the U.S. Marshal's office, the U.S. Attorney's office, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and Freemasons.
Child ID kits are "the most extensive precaution," said Richard Tracy of the U.S. Marshal's office. "DNA and fingerprints don't change, so having those basic components accessible is vital."
Tucson resident Catalina Tucker took the opportunity at the Tucson Mall booth to obtain fingerprints and a child ID kit for her pre-school aged daughter.
"It makes me feel safer knowing that it's on records," she said. "The process is all done and I don't have to do it all over again. Definitely worth waiting in line for."
Parents who want child identification kits for their children can make reservations for the second Wednesday of each month through the Oro Valley Police Department. To do so, call Yolanda Hallberg, community resource officer, at 229-5084.