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Friday, May 18, 2012

Celebrate Safety: Personal Safety Tips for Children

Child Quest International (CQI) wants to remind the public that National Missing Children’s Day is honored on May 25th. CQI wants parents to know there are things they can do to keep their children safer and urges parents to talk to their children about interpersonal safety. CQI has developed the attached safety tips as a part of it's ongoing campaign to stop child victimization.  

Thursday, May 17, 2012

National Missing Children's Day: Honored Every May 25th

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Between 1979 and 1981 a series of high-profile missing-children cases became national headlines. Three such cases contributed to the shock of the nation’s consciousness bringing attention to the seriousness of child victimization and forever changing the response by law-enforcement agencies to reports of missing children.

On May 25, 1979, Etan Patz disappeared from a New York City street on his way to school. Even before cases of missing children routinely garnered national media attention, Etan’s case quickly received a lot of coverage. His father, a professional photographer, disseminated black-and-white photographs of Etan in an effort to find him. The massive search and media attention that followed focused the nation’s attention on the problem of child abduction and lack of plans to address it.

For almost three years national media attention was focused on Atlanta, Georgia, where the bodies of young boys and girls were discovered in lakes, marshes, and ponds along roadside trails. By the time a suspect was arrested and identified in 1981, 29 bodies were recovered. The suspect was apprehended, convicted, and now serves a life sentence in prison.

On July 27, 1981, 6-year-old Adam Walsh disappeared from a Florida shopping mall. His parents, John and Revé Walsh, immediately turned to law-enforcement agencies to help find their son. To their disappointment, there was no coordinated effort among law enforcement to search for Adam on a state or national level, and no organization to help them in their desperation.

The tragedies of these children and others exposed a fundamental flaw. There was no coordinated effort between federal, state, and local law enforcement; no national response system in place; and no central resource to help searching families. When it came to handling missing-children cases, the United States was a nation of 50 states often acting like 50 separate countries.

The momentum that began with the disappearance of Etan, Adam, and the 29 missing and murdered children of Atlanta led to photographs of missing children on milk cartons and, ultimately, a nationwide movement. In 1983 President Ronald Regan proclaimed May 25 National Missing Children’s Day. Each administration since has honored this annual reminder to the nation to renew efforts to reunite missing children with their families and make child protection a national priority. National Missing Children’s Day is a reminder to all parents and guardians of the need for high-quality photographs of their children for use in case of an emergency, and for the need for everyone to pay close attention to the posters and photographs of missing children.

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Every year in America, an estimated 800,000 children are reported missing, more than 2,000 children each day. Of that number, 200,000 are abducted by family members and 58,000 are abducted by non-family members, for which the primary motive is sexual. Each year, 115 children are the victims of the most serious abductions; they are taken by non-family members and either murdered, ransomed or taken with the intent to keep.

As a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, Child Quest International is dedicated to the prevention and recovery of missing, abused, and exploited children. If you are in need of services aimed at locating and reuniting missing children with their loved ones, or no someone who is, please contact us at 888-818-HOPE. Child Quest International never charges a fee to law enforcement or searching families for our services.  

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Wireless Emergency Alerts on Your Mobile Device


A new nationwide alert system will use cell phone towers to send emergency text messages to people in specific locations. 

The Wireless Association® and the wireless industry joined the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to offer Americans a robust and reliable wireless emergency alert system. 

Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA), also known as Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) or Personal Localized Alerting Network (PLAN), is a national emergency alert system to send concise, text-like messages to users’ WEA-capable mobile devices starting April 2012. Wireless providers representing nearly 97 percent of cellular subscribers are participating in distributing wireless emergency alerts from federal, state, local, and tribal government agencies about imminent threats to safety, including severe weather events and missing children.

Only public safety entities can issue the alerts, which fall into three categories:
  • Presidential Alerts – Alerts issued by the President or a designee;
  • Imminent Threat Alerts – Alerts that include severe man-made or natural disasters, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, etc., where an imminent threat to life or property exists; and
  • AMBER Alerts – Alerts that meet the U.S. Department of Justice’s criteria to help law enforcement search for and locate an abducted child. This alert system is different than the wireless AMBER Alert program (www.wirelessamberalerts.org).

While these alerts will appear on a person’s mobile device similar to a text message, Wireless Emergency Alerts are not text messages. Instead, Wireless Emergency Alerts use a different kind of technology to ensure they are delivered immediately and are not subjected to potential congestion (or delays) on wireless networks.

In addition, Wireless Emergency Alerts are a point-to-multipoint system, which means alert messages will be sent to those within a targeted area. The alerts are location-specific and will be sent to people who have “WEA-capable” devices in the affected areas, unlike text messages which are not location based. For example, if a person with a WEA-capable device from Washington, D.C. happened to be in southern California when an earthquake occurred in that area, they would receive an “Imminent Threat Alert” on their device without signing up or registering for them.  The user will receive the alert on their device simply because they are in the targeted area.

"The ability for people to be made aware of AMBER Alerts and potentially aid in the safe recovery of a missing child is going to expand exponentially." says Anthony Gonzalez, Sr. Operations Director for Child Quest International, a nonprofit for missing children.

The alerts will have a “unique audible signal and vibration cadence to emphasize its important,” according the wireless association CTIA’s FAQ on the program. The messages will be no more than 90 characters in length, and include: an alert icon, info on who is sending the alert, what is happening, who is affected, and what action to take.

"Other benefits are that you don't need to have an app for it, sign-up for location based services, or pay for any additional fees.” According to Gonzalez, “This local alert capability is built into the phones technology and can be utilized anywhere your device gets a signal." 

Though all the major cell phone providers are all taking part in the alert system, they currently have a limited number of phones that are equipped to retrieve the alerts. That will change as new phones emerge with the built-in technology.

There are a number of WEA-capable devices available today, and many of the new phones that are sold from participating carriers will be able to transmit these alerts. If your device has the CTIA Wireless Emergency Alerts logo, then it is WEA-capable. To receive these alerts, you might need to only upgrade your device’s software, rather than purchase a new one. 

Mobile users will NOT be charged for receiving these text-like alerts and are automatically enrolled to receive them. Consumers can opt out of Imminent Threat alerts and AMBER alerts, but they cannot opt-out of Presidential Alerts. To confirm Wireless Emergency Alerts are available in your area and your device is capable of receiving the alerts, please check with your carrier.
 
The latest information on compatible phones is available online.

[Source: CTIA]


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

'QR Codes' Replace Milk Cartons in Quest to Find Missing Children

San Jose, CA - Say you're sitting in a Starbucks and see a teenager who looks just like that picture on the missing-child poster you scanned with your smartphone in Safeway two weeks ago.

But you're not sure, so you whip out your phone and check.

Bingo. It's the girl. You click on the highlighted hotline number, which immediately connects you to the police, who arrive in two minutes flat.

Forget those old forlorn photos on milk cartons. The latest big thing in the search for missing children are "QR codes," a bar-code-like "quick response" technology that puts missing-kid posters in thousands of people's purses and pockets. After Facebook and Twitter, the codes are the latest tools in the tech and social media box aimed at finding kids who vanish.

The day after 15-year-old Sierra LaMar disappeared on her way to her Morgan Hill bus stop three weeks ago, a Santa Clara County sheriff's sergeant called San Jose-based Child Quest International, suggesting that a QR code be put on Sierra's missing fliers.

Her friends and family also have been tweeting about candlelight vigils, posting on Facebook a variety of photos and videos of her and using social media to express sympathy and reach out to volunteer searchers.
Earlier this week, the KlaasKids Foundation encouraged people to swap their Facebook profile pictures with those of Sierra to keep her image in the spotlight in what they called an "online vigil." And volunteers have plastered her missing poster -- complete with QR codes -- across Northern California.

"The problem is educating the community on what a QR code is," said Child Quest's Anthony Gonzalez. "People who know about it rave about it. Others have never seen it and wonder, 'What is this thing on the poster?' "

QR codes are printed squares of jumbled black lines and squiggles. When a smartphone equipped with a free QR code app points the phone's camera at the image, it links directly to a website with more photos of the missing child, information and hotline phone numbers. (Haven't seen a missing poster with the QR code? Aim your phone at Sierra's QR code printed next to this story, or go to http://uqr.me/missing-sierra-lamar and snap a photo of the computer screen.)

"It essentially makes the missing poster portable," said Stephen Watkins, a Toronto man who works with Child Quest and modified QR codes that were first developed by Toyota to track car parts.
The idea came to him, he said, when he was at a Walmart and noticed customers passing missing posters, glancing briefly and moving on. He is using QR codes and other social media to continue his search for his own two sons, who in 2009 were taken to Poland by their mother.

To humanize the QR code, like he did with his sons' and Sierra's, he embeds a photograph of the missing child.

Technology has come a long way since the milk carton campaign in the 1980s, devised by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. That campaign lasted six months and -- despite becoming part of the pop culture of the time -- was considered a failure, said the center's Bob Lowery.

"People weren't really paying attention to the images on the milk cartons," he said. "The only ones paying attention were younger children enjoying their cereal."

When the center opened in 1984, it had a recovery rate of 62 percent for missing children. Now, nearly three decades later, that rate is 98 percent. "It's because of better awareness of missing children and also our ability to connect through social media, Amber Alerts and all the tools we have," Lowery said.

Even as media interest fades, Sierra's family and supporters can continue to tweet and retweet and add sympathetic friends to their Facebook accounts to keep the story going. After three weeks, the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office is still staffing its emergency operations center around the clock, staffing tip lines, putting GPS devices on their searchers, and keeping tabs on Sierra's so-far-dormant Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Robert McConnell, a computer programmer from Macedonia, Ohio, credits Facebook with getting him closer to finding his daughter. Even though he had full custody, he said, his daughter's mother took her to her native Indonesia and never came back.

"I thought my only avenue might be trying to get as many friends as I could in Indonesia on Facebook," he said. "I posted my daughter's pictures and everything and sure enough, about a year ago, I was contacted by a woman who knew her."

But the trail went cold when the mother and daughter, Bianca Damanik, now 9 years old, moved to somewhere near Jakarta.

But McConnell isn't giving up.

"I'm just hoping when she gets old enough," he said, "she'll go out and try to find me."

[Article 4/4/2012 By Julia Prodis Sulek writer for MercuryNews.Com]