Kiosk at Albany International Airport calls attention to missing children
Public can play key role when a child disappears
ALBANY – The slim, five-foot tall kiosk with a computer touch screen looks like a sleek new style of ATM, but the currency it dispenses is information – information that could be invaluable to a family’s search for a missing child.
Located at the Albany International Airport, the kiosk is an interactive, electronic version of traditional “missing” posters and provides a direct link to photographs and information about the more than 100 children currently listed on the New York State Missing Children Register.
The kiosk, a project of the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services’ Missing and Exploited Children Clearinghouse, is located on the airport’s second level, just past the security checkpoint in the hub where all the terminals meet.
The clearinghouse was established in 1987 and provides investigative support services and training for law enforcement, assistance to family members of missing children and free community education programs for parents, educators, schools and civic organizations.
“The kiosks are simply another way for us to get the word out about the services we provide to the public in general and families of missing children in particular,” said Denise E. O’Donnell, commissioner of the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services and assistant secretary to the governor for criminal justice. “It’s important to keep these cases in the public’s eye because, often, that is the key to finding these children.”
“The power of the public can’t be understated,” O’Donnell added. “We have reunited children with their parents after getting calls from people who saw a child and suspected that something just wasn’t right and confirmed their suspicion through our website.”
In addition to featuring a direct link to the state’s Missing Children Register and the clearinghouse’s website, the kiosk provides links to a host of resources designed to educate the public, including:
- The Division of Criminal Justice Services’ website, which includes information about Operation Safe Child, a program that provides parents or legal guardians with a free card that includes their child/children’s vital information: date of birth, gender, height, weight, eye color, along with a photograph and fingerprint images of both index fingers; Internet safety presentations; and New York’s 100 “most wanted” fugitives.
- AMBER Alert, an early-warning system to help find abducted children;
- The Center for HOPE, a non-profit organization founded by Doug and Mary Lyall of Ballston Spa, parents of University at Albany student Suzanne Lyall, who was 19 when she disappeared in March of 1998; and
- The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s website, which lists information about missing children from every state in the nation.
“The Albany International Airport is proud to partner with the Division of Criminal Justice Services to provide travelers with the opportunity to learn more of New York’s efforts to locate missing children and adults,” said David E. Langdon, chairman of the Albany County Airport Authority.
“This kiosk offers the tools and essential information that will enable our travelers to help prevent child abductions and assist those who may be exploited as children or adults,” Langdon added.
Once such call resulted in a father from Capital Region being reunited earlier this year with his two children, who had been taken out West by their mother. And in 2005, a teen-age girl in Germany “Google-d” herself, and learned that she was listed on the Missing Children Register because her mother had taken her to the foreign country when she was very young. When the teen asked her mother about the information, her mother allowed her to initiate contact with her father.
“It absolutely works,” said DCJS Deputy Commissioner Dan Foro, who oversees the Missing and Exploited Children Clearinghouse. “That’s why we want to get this information distributed to, and viewed by, as many people as possible. The airport also was a logical choice because it’s well-traveled and children might be passing through.”
The kiosk also is educational, linking to the clearinghouse’s information about Internet and child safety. Another kiosk is located at the New York State Museum, in the lobby near the museum’s mastodon.
Last year, the state’s Missing Children Register received 21,613 reports of children missing. More than 90 percent involved reports of suspected runaways, while abduction cases accounted for approximately 1 percent of the total reports. Abductions by family members are the most frequent type of abduction.
The New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services is a multi-function criminal justice support agency with a variety of responsibilities, including collection and analysis of statewide crime data; operation of the DNA databank and criminal fingerprint files; administration of federal and state criminal justice funds; support of criminal justice-related agencies across the state; and administration of the state’s Sex Offender Registry and a toll-free telephone number (1-800-262-3257) that allows anyone to research the status of an offender.