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ID-program tracks W.Va. kids

July 14, 1999|By BRYN MICKLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A new computerized child identification system in West Virginia will help police get a quicker jump on missing child cases, West Virginia State Police Sgt. Rob Blair said.

"It allows us to get the information out to police across the country at the touch of a button," Blair said.

The state's Department of Motor Vehicles last week began its SAFEKIDS PIX program that creates a computer database of identification cards for children.

The program allows parents of children ages 2 through 15 to register vital personal information that may help police if the child is ever lost or kidnapped.

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The children are given a driver's license-sized card with their photo and a state identification number which corresponds with a digital file that includes the child's name, sex, Social Security number, birth date, weight, height and eye color, according to Martinsburg DMV Regional Director Craig Loy.

Parents can also have a photo taken of their children's right index finger. It can be enlarged for fingerprint analysis, Loy said.

The child ID's have proven popular in Martinsburg so far with more than 120 cards being issued since the program began July 9, Loy said.

"This is a state-of-the-art system," he said. "The information stored in our computers can be downloaded through the Internet for quick access by police."

The data can be critical in abduction cases, when speed is of the essence, Blair said.

"It's a good tool to have," said Blair, who added he plans to get one of the cards made for his 3-year-old son.

The personal information for each child is kept on a secure server and can only be given out with the consent of the parent or guardian, state DMV spokeswoman Mary Jane Lopez said.

The state Board of Education is considering offering the SAFEPIX program in schools, Lopez said.

The president of the Berkeley County PTA said he thinks that would be an excellent idea.

"If it were offered in schools it would allow it to become more widespread," Stan Taylor said.

To get the IDs, which are available at any DMV office in West Virginia, parents must supply certified copies of the child's birth certificate and Social Security card.

The cards cost $5 and must be renewed every two years.

While some people may view the concept of identification cards as Orwellian, Lopez said she isn't aware of any complaints about the program.

Except one.

"One child wasn't very happy with his photo," Lopez said.

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