Utah’s top law enforcer says parents need this tool in case their child gets abducted

Oct 18, 2022, 8:31 PM | Updated: Nov 22, 2022, 10:56 pm
Marlon Bateman and his daughter, 6, demonstrate how to complete a child ID kit along with Utah Atto...
Marlon Bateman and his daughter, 6, demonstrate how to complete a child ID kit along with Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes in Lehi on Tuesday. (Ashley Imlay/KSL.com)
(Ashley Imlay/KSL.com)

LEHI, Utah — The abduction of a child is a parent’s nightmare.

When a kidnapping does happen, every minute and hour that passes “could be very much the difference between bringing someone home or not,” Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said.

That’s why the state reinstated a program that helps parents keep identifying information about their children on hand if the worst-case scenario occurs and they go missing. The National Child ID program provides kits to take a child’s fingerprint, keep a DNA sample, photo and important medical information about them in one place.

The national program began about 25 years ago after 9-year-old Amber Hagerman was kidnapped and murdered in Texas in 1996. The case also prompted the Amber Alert system’s creation. But the federal government stopped funding the Child ID program a few years ago, Reyes noted.

Utah and other states have seen a need to bring it back, however, and now the Beehive State is leading in its work to get the kits into the hands of every K-12 parent.

“And if something, heaven forbid, happens to their child, they can pull this out and provide it to law enforcement,” and law enforcement can use it to potentially find the child, according to Rich Piatt, spokesman with the Utah Attorney General’s Office.

Child abductions by a stranger are “relatively rare” in the law enforcement world, but when they happen they are “horrific,” Piatt said as he met with others at the Lehi Police Department to celebrate the city’s efforts to provide it to every student.

With the help of school resource officers, the city distributed the kits to every K-12 child, Lehi leaders said.

Lehi Police Lt. Chad Ray said his department is excited to access the program.

“It’s something that we believe will be really useful,” he said, adding that even firefighters will be able to use the information when they get called to help with missing children cases.

Piatt said Weber County has also distributed hundreds of the kits. Parents can go online to request the kits by visiting the Attorney General’s website or find them at their local sheriff’s office.

“This tool is only as good, as much as parents take the time to fill it out with their children. Otherwise, we can pass out as many of these child ID kits and not fulfill the mission, which is to empower families,” Reyes said.

“As a parent myself, I would do anything to protect my six children from even the slightest threat,” he said.

Last year, 165 children were reported missing in Utah, according to Reyes. As of today, 16 of those cases remain active.

The information included in the child ID kits does not get entered into a database, as parents are encouraged to keep it in a safe place in their home and update it as their child grows.

Officials said the state funded roughly 50%, and businesses — including Johnson and Johnson, Vivint and Rocky Mountain Power — helped supplement the funding. The state spent $860,000 to get the program kickstarted. That first round of funding was enough to supply every current K-12 student, and the Utah Legislature passed a bill that provides $139,000 each year to keep the program going.

Reyes said since the program was reinstated last year in Utah, law enforcers so far haven’t used the kits in any cases yet — and authorities hope they don’t ever have to use the kits.

But they could make a difference. Without the kit, it could take minutes or hours for police to access a DNA sample from an item in the child’s home — and they might never find information that would be kept inside the kit, Reyes said.

Ray said when police arrive at an abducted child’s home, the first thing they do is get a photo of the child. The kit can save police that time, as parents would have that picture easily accessible, he said.

Reyes and other leaders said they want to promote the program to communities across the state — and across the country. Utah is also helping Mexicali in Baja California, which Reyes says has a high rate of abductions, by donating 50,000 child ID kits to the government there.

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Utah’s top law enforcer says parents need this tool in case their child gets abducted