By Lindsey Remington, Knight Ridder/East Valley Tribune
Mesa, Ariz., police officer Patrick Wolter said he talks to parents of missing children all the time.
His department fielded more than 3,500 calls last year for missing persons, 99percent of which involved children. Most were resolved quickly and without incident. Still, given the frequency of calls, he decided that he wanted to further aide in the prevention of cases in which a child is abducted or missing for another reason.
Wolter became an independent agent for Child Shield, U.S.A., a company that helps to prevent and recover lost, missing, abducted, and runaway children throughout the United States. He holds the position in addition to being a police officer.
The issue of missing or abducted children has received renewed national attention in recent few weeks amid a wave of high-profile cases involving missing or abducted children.
Child Shield is designed to help in cases that aren't so easily solved. The company provides educational packages for parents and children on how to prevent children from being abducted. Included in this package is a pamphlet on how to make a videotape of your child that the company holds for two years in case the child is reported missing.
Upon being notified of the disappearance of a registered child, the company will contact the investigating police department and duplicate up to 100 copies of the child's identification videotape, plus 1,000 posters of the child to distribute to any or all of the destinations included in Child Shield's database. "This is done within a matter of hours," said John Raskob owner of Child Shield U.S.A.
The database contains 16,000 law enforcement agencies, missing children's' organizations, and national news media contacts, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and America's Most Wanted.
"One of the best parts about the company is that there's someone else to help the parent, so that they don't feel by themselves in this," said Wolter.
With time being critical in these situations and parents often distraught, Wolter said its easier for police officers to have the company send them the video.
"It can be frustrating as a police officer. I've had parents that the photos they have of their children are outdated four or five years, or when I'm filling out the report parents will forget what the child was wearing that day, how tall he is, how much he weighs, who the child plays with or even where they went," said Wolter.
Since opening in 1990 Pennsylvania-based Child Shield U.S.A. has registered more than 1.5 million children. Raskob said the company has only had one of those children turn up missing, who with their help was found three days after being abducted.
The company has 250 sales agents nationwide, with at least one agent in every state, including Hawaii and Alaska. The most agents are in Texas, Florida, New York and California. Wolter is the only agent in Arizona, but Raskob said the company is hoping to have more in the Phoenix area. In addition to the services in the package, Raskob said the company recently added two more.
"If a child is reported missing we will immediately post their picture on our Web site with a $ 50,000 reward for the person responsible and we will hire a private investigator in the area to help the parents."
When it comes to making the videotape of the child Wolter said the company doesn't film the tape for privacy reasons.
"A lot of parents wouldn't want a stranger coming into their house and videotaping their child," said Wolter.
Raskob said when making the video parents should make sure the child is at eye level, that they are walking, talking, to point out features such as birthmarks, ask them a couple questions such as what pets they like or to sing a song and include a 10 second close up of their face.
"The majority of parents update their videos every year," said Wolter.
The child safety package retails for about $ 39.95 for two years of coverage and for the video registration services.
For more information on Child Shield, U.S.A. call Wolter at (602) 954-9478 or go to the Web site at www.protectyourchildren.net.