CHIP program protects Decatur County children from abductionPublished 12:17am Saturday, October 5, 2013
More than 30 children at Potter Street Elementary School in Bainbridge were fingerprinted by the Decatur County Sheriff’s Department Wednesday, but none of the kids were in any kind of trouble.
The CHIP program, or Masonic Child Identification Program, is something sponsored by the local Masonic Lodge, which gathers DNA swabs, fingerprints and digital video of footage of each child, which is then burned onto a disc and given to parents in case of abduction.
Sheriff’s deputies and EMS responders volunteered Tuesday at the elementary school gathering information on special computers that allow them to ask the children a list of questions. The Masonic lodge and deputies have conducted the program in three schools this year for all second graders, serving more than 250 children.
“What we are doing is setting up every second grader in the county every year and also seventh graders to do the program,” said Joe Battles, Orion Lodge CHIP Chairman. “Statistically those are the ages where they go missing.”
Battles said the lodge would do every child every year if they could, but for now, until they have more participation or get more time, they are focusing on second and seventh graders.
Captain Liz Croley with the Decatur County Sheriff’s Department said second graders are the perfect age for the series of questions that are conducted because of their ability to communicate.
“One reason we do this age group is because they will talk back to us when we ask questions and they are not shy,” Croley said, adding they ask the same standard questions of name, address and phone number. “If the child is abducted and their hair is cut and their clothes are changed, they are not going to change their voice or their mannerisms.”
Once abducted, law enforcement can get the packet from the parents, which also has video footage of the children saying where they go when they are upset and the name of their best friend.
“And that is the first place we go,” Croley said, and we contact their best friend immediately. Parents are usually not totally able to answer questions when their child is abducted, so when a child is abducted this gives us a huge jump on finding them with everything happening in seconds.”
One obstacle organizers face, Croley said, is getting parents to understand none of the information collected is kept on file, but instead given back to the parents.