SYCAMORE – DeKalb County parents are now able to arm themselves with a tool that can quickly give police the information they need in the event of an Amber Alert. Allstate agent Patrick Shafer unveiled the service, an initiative of the national organization Operation Childsafe, on Friday morning in Sycamore.
Families can have informational cards made out for their children that will include information such as an image of the child, their fingerprints, height, weight and other pertinent information for officers who are alerted of a missing child. The Patrick Shafer Allstate Agency, 331 W. State St., will provide the service for free for any child accompanied by an adult during the agency’s business hours.
“Since we opened our office six years ago we decided that we wanted to give back to the community,” Shafer said shortly after the ceremony. “My wife and I are both parents and grandparents, and I worry about our children and grandchildren all the time.”
Compiling the information for the card takes a few minutes, and the information is then deleted from the system, Shafer said.
Operation Childsafe founder Mark Bott said 1.6 million children have used the service through his organization’s outreach to businesses across the country since Operation Childsafe’s inception in 2001.
The idea for the organization came to him as he watched the family of 9-year-old Amber Hagerman plead with Dallas public officials in a town hall meeting to get the media to broadcast information about their missing daughter in 1996.
It later came to light that Hagerman was kidnapped while riding her bicycle in Arlington, Texas, and then murdered. The AMBER Alert system was created later that year in Dallas when broadcasters and police developed an early warning system to help find missing children.
The town hall meeting spurred Bott to reach out to John Walsh, who he worked for as a consultant, and together they created Operation Childsafe. The informational cards Operation Childsafe has been creating for almost 20 years prevent parents from scrambling to collect information in the first few crucial hours of reporting a missing child, Bott said.
“Our goal is simple, we want the parents to get the safety tips and start the conversation with the kids,” Bott said. “No nobody wants to talk about safety because you’d rather talk about the hockey game.”
There were 424,066 FBI National Crime Information Center entries for missing children in 2018, down from 464,324 in 2017, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.