Friday, December 12, 2008

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Attorney General Abbott Launches Initiative To Provide Parents Identification Cards for Their Children

AUSTIN – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today launched a new child protection initiative that will help ensure parents have instant access to their child’s identifying information. When a child goes missing, valuable time can be lost as parents scramble to pull together information that authorities need to help locate the child. Today’s program, which is a cooperative effort between the Attorney General and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), allows parents to save that critical information in a single location.

“When a child goes missing, every second counts,” Attorney General Abbott said. “By keeping their child’s fingerprints and a recent photo readily accessible, parents save precious time and ensure that authorities can start the search effort immediately. The sooner a search begins, the quicker a missing child can be found and returned safely to their loved ones.”

The Attorney General kicked off the new program at Barton Creek Square mall in Austin, where holiday shopping parents had the opportunity to obtain two wallet-sized identification cards with their child’s photograph and thumb print. Parents, whose children had to be present in order for their information to be recorded, also received letter-sized document with a full set of fingerprints and additional identifying information.

Today’s program launch was the first of a series of events that will be held across Texas through 2009. At each of the events, Cyber Crimes Unit officers are available to enter a child’s identifying information into a machine that prints identification cards for parents. The cards are provided at no cost to parents.

According to the Texas Missing Persons Clearinghouse, 58,285 Texas children were reported missing in 2007. The U.S. Dept. of Justice ranks Texas second in the nation, behind California, in the number of child abductions from non-family members. An estimated 115 children are victims of kidnappings by strangers or individuals of slight acquaintance.

The Child ID program is the most recent in a series of child protection efforts by Attorney General Abbott. In 2003, he created the Cyber Crimes Unit, which investigates and prosecutes criminals who use the Internet to prey upon children. Cyber Crimes Unit investigators often work closely with NCMEC to respond to cybertips indicating that a predator is sexually soliciting children online or distributing child pornography.

Attorney General Abbott subsequently launched the Fugitive Unit, which locates and arrests convicted sex offenders who violated the terms of their parole. Together, the Cyber Crimes Unit and Fugitive Unit have arrested more than 700 sex offenders. Prosecutors have obtained child pornography convictions against more than 80 suspects who were investigated by the Cyber Crimes Unit. During another recent outreach effort, the Attorney General and Cyber Crimes investigators traveled to schools in communities across the state, where they held town hall meetings to teach parents how to protect their children from online predators.

In May 2006, Attorney General Abbott’s Cyber Crimes Unit was awarded a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention to establish an Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force. The Texas Attorney General’s ICAC Task Force is one of almost 50 federally funded task forces across the country dedicated to this project. To find out more about Attorney General Abbott’s efforts to protect Texas children, visit www.texasattorneygeneral.gov.