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Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014

Keeping kids safe

Sunday, January 21, 2007

(Photo)
Sikeston Department of Public Safety School Resources officer Joey Henry fingerprints Gage Rolwing as part of Gage's personal identity kit.
SIKESTON -- Gage Rolwing sat still as Sikeston Department of Public Safety school resource officer Joey Henry rolled each of his fingers over a stamp pad and pressed them into their designated squares on a page of a child identity kit booklet.

When that was finished, Gage opened his mouth and said "ahh" as Henry, who was wearing gloves, swabbed the 4-year-old's mouth for a DNA sample to put with the kit.

After it was all over, Gage said it was easy and didn't hurt at all.

And his mother was grateful.

"I think child identity kits are a wonderful idea," said Emilee Rolwing, Gage's mother.

Last weekend's discovery of missing Missouri boys, 13-year-old Ben Ownby and 15-year-old Shawn Hornbeck, brought the reality of abductions home to parents, children and their communities.

"It shocked me and sent me for a loop," Rolwing admitted. "It was only a couple hours away."

Rolwing said on a daily basis she talks to her son about what to do if someone tries to abduct him. Rolwing said she knows as Gage gets older, she will be able to talk to him with a different point of view, she said.

But, unfortunately, not all parents take a proactive approach like Rolwing.

"In the society we live in, we're pretty much reactive. We wait until something bad happens, then we react to it," said Tom Beardslee, chief deputy at Scott County Sheriff's Department.

Beardslee said he thinks there needs to be closer communication between parents and their children.

"We've been blessed in this area. Any attempted abductions we've had have been spoiled," said Sgt. Shirley Porter of Sikeston Department of Public Safety. The local law enforcement officials say there are things parents, their children and communities can do to be proactive to abductions.

Porter said one of the best things to do is be alert in your surroundings. Parents can be waiting at the bus stop when a child gets on and off the school bus, she said. Communities can designate a mother for each week to watch children at the bus stop, she suggested.

Also reiterate with children some of the age-old "stranger danger" tips, Porter said. Children should know their parents' full names and address.

"Don't open the door when you're home alone, and don't let others know there isn't an adult home. If they ask for your mom, just say she's busy or in the bath tub," Porter said.

Parents should know their children's friends no matter what age. It also would be a good idea for parents to be more involved in their children's Internet activity, Porter said.

Throughout the year, child identity kits like the one Henry used for Gage are available at community events. Often they are free or require a small fee. They can also be obtained by contacting local law enforcement agencies or via the Internet.

Officials recommend having fingerprints made every five years or if fingers get new scars. Photos should be updated every six months but no later than a year. Older photos should be left in the kit, Beardslee said.

"It only takes five minutes to do a kit," Porter said. "Is your child worth that five minutes of your time?"

Kits should be stored in locked boxes or a safe deposit box, Porter said.

Should a parent ever find themselves in a situation where their child is missing, they should contact local law enforcement as soon as they realize the child is unaccounted for, Beardslee said.

"We run into situations where a parent can't find their child so they call neighbors and friends first, and pretty soon, the place is contaminated and makes it more difficult for law enforcement," Beardslee said.

Waiting 24 hours to search for a missing person has never been the case, Beardslee said. Once alerted, officers begin searching, he said.

"We'd rather do a search for a child who has been at grandma's than not do one and never find the child," Beardslee said.

And most importantly, build a self esteem within the child, Porter said.

"You can give out all this advice, but you never know what state of mind that child will be in (if they are kidnapped)," Porter said. "... If they've got a high self esteem, they will be more assertive and daring than a child who doesn't."