Division of Criminal Justice Services

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Contact: Janine Kava, Press Office
New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services
(518) 457-8906 or (518) 275-5508 – cell       

Missing and Exploited Children Clearinghouse staffer Ken Olsen, a law enforcement veteran with more than 20 years of experience, is available for television, radio or print interviews about Halloween safety today between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. today. Reporters should contact Janine Kava to schedule an interview.

For immediate release: Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2008

Missing and Exploited Children Clearinghouse staff offer tips for a safe Halloween
Operation SAFE CHILD cards also available in Guilderland today and tomorrow

ALBANY – With Halloween just two days away, staff members of the state’s Missing and Exploited Children Clearinghouse offer the following safety tips for parents to ensure that this year’s holiday is delightfully frightful – not seriously scary – for their trick-or-treaters.

  • Before your children venture out, consult the New York State Sex Offender Registry (1-800-262-3257) or www.criminaljustice.ny.gov to determine whether there are any registered sex offenders in your neighborhood or the neighborhood where your children will be trick-or-treating. Avoid those locations and any other houses that are dark or don’t have a porch light on.
  • Accompany your children or require that older children trick-or-treat in groups. Advise trick-or-treaters to be aware of their surroundings at all times and caution children not to enter any houses they visit.
  • Tell your children to scream and make a scene if they are approached by someone who tries to grab them or force them, in any way, to go with them.
  • Make sure trick-or-treaters carry flashlights and wear reflective costumes.
  • Remind your children to tell you if they see or experience anything suspicious.
  • And, as always, check the treats that have been collected and discard anything that seems to have been tampered with, opened or unwrapped.

Established in 1987 by Executive Law and housed at the state Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), the Missing and Exploited Children Clearinghouse 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.

“Through our Missing and Exploited Children Clearinghouse, we offer a variety of programs designed to help parents talk to their children about personal safety in a way that stresses awareness, empowerment and instilling a sense of caution,” said DCJS Commissioner Denise E. O’Donnell.

Two of the Clearinghouse’s most sought-after programs are Operation SAFE CHILD and Internet safety presentations.

Operation SAFE CHILD provides parents or legal guardians with a free card that contains their child’s vital information, including date of birth, gender, height, weight and eye color, along with a photograph and fingerprints of both index fingers. If the parent or guardian wishes, that information is stored in a secure database so that it can be disseminated instantly if a child is abducted or lost.

In 2007, more than 83,500 children were registered through the program. Since the program’s inception in June 2005, more than 270,000 children have been registered through Operation SAFE CHILD.

Parents or guardians can obtain free Operation SAFE CHILD cards for their children from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. today and tomorrow at the DCJS offices, located at 4 Tower Place, behind Stuyvesant Plaza in Guilderland.

DCJS also partners with 56 law enforcement agencies across the state to offer Operation SAFE CHILD cards. For more information about Operation SAFE CHILD, call 1-800-FINDKID or visit www.operationsafechild.org.

Last year, Clearinghouse staff gave 59 Internet safety presentations across the state to nearly 4,800 parents, educators, children and teens. That resulted in a 28 percent increase in the number of presentations and a 31 percent increase in the number of participants.

The 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.