In a continuing expansion of the Operation Safe Child program, 100 students at Our Lady of Victory School in Floral Park recently received IDs with their photographs, physical descriptions and fingerprints from the Nassau County district attorney’s office.
Approximately 800 students in Floral Park elementary schools are now enrolled in the program, according to Floral Park Police Commissioner Stephen McAllister, with student information stored in a database maintained by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services. Information in the database can be readily disseminated to state agencies if a child goes missing.
The information about each child includes height, weight, hair color and eye color. Fingerprints are recorded electronically.
“The focus is on saving children. The idea is to alert these agencies immediately and we have pictures,” said McAllister, who said his department has been working with the county DA’s office on the program for the past two years.
Students in the Floral Park-Bellerose School and the John Lewis Child School were previously enrolled in the program, McAllister said.
McAllister said the time involved in issuing alerts is a crucial factor in the case of any child abduction. Information from the cards can be used in conjunction with the AMBER alert program and the state Division of Criminal Justice Services’ Missing Child programs.
Parents keep the IDs, which can be easily stored in a wallet or pocketbook. Statistics show that 34 percent of parents in the U.S. cannot accurately recall a child’s exact height, weight and eye color, according to information on the state Division of Criminal Services website.
“We’re all about keeping our children safe and accounted for. At our fingertips, we can disseminate information all over the state,” said acting Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas, who attended the Operation Safe Child enrollment at Our Lady of Victory.
The program was initiated countywide in 2009 under former Nassau County DA Kathleen Rice. Approximately 10,000 elementary school students have been enrolled in the program and received IDs to date, according to the county DA’s office.
The 100 students enrolled in the program at Our Lady of Victory represent about one-third of the students currently attending the school in grades K through 8, according to the school’s principal, Peg Augello.
“We have had very positive responses from the parents. I think it is a great program and a good opportunity for parents,” Augello said.
The children at the school were visibly pleased to have their pictures taken and receive their IDs on Monday. Floral Park Police Department School Resource Officer John Groshans, the police department’s liaison officer to the DA’s office for the program, said parents have responded enthusiastically to have their children enrolled in Operation Safe Child.
“We’ve had a great turnout,” Groshans said. “The parents seem very happy.”
The program is administered by the New York State Sheriff’s Association, which initiated Operation Safe Child in collaboration with the state Division of Criminal Justice Services in 2005.