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View Full Version : Is fingerprinting kids really useful?


Vlad/Igor
06-13-2009, 06:08 PM
On the coffee table in my living room is an Ident-A-Kid ID for my son, with his picture and fingerprint on the back. I Googled for instances where this sort of thing was helpful in locating or identifying a missing child, and didn't find any mention. What I did find were lots of vendors selling biometric ID kits (hair, DNA, fingerprint), and mentions of civic groups offering to ID your child at a community function. This leads me to wonder if this is a cottage industry making a product of dubious usefulness, its importance "supported" by news coverage of the missing-blond-haired-blue-eyed-princess-of-the-week.

So, is anyone aware of when these types of IDs have really helped identify or find a missing child? Or are they just a way of calming frightened parents?

Vlad/Igor

Ferret Herder
06-13-2009, 06:22 PM
I don't know about fingerprinting, but unless your child is adopted, I'm very dubious of the utility of DNA testing the kid ahead of some kind of problem - the authorities can always get samples from one or both parents, after all.

Auntbeast
06-13-2009, 09:15 PM
I think it is a way to comfort parents. I'm no crime expert, but I can't see them poring over items looking for a kids fingerprints. I have one of the cards that has it, but most oddly, when my daughter was born, they gave me this packet of her DNA. I have no idea what to do with it, where to store it or even what to think. It's been in my wallet for 3 years. Hopefully, it is more durable than a condom. :P

I'm pretty sure any parent of an infant has their DNA smeared on them somewhere. My daughter is convinced I'm her napkin.

Vlad/Igor
06-13-2009, 09:39 PM
I agree with the DNA fingerprinting. It doesn't do much toward helping investigators find a child. The best thing it could do is to establish or confirm identity later on in life, if there were a need.

I dug around a little more about Ident-A-Kid, and found this website (http://bizymoms.com/franchises/opportunities/child_identity.html) where you can purchase franchise rights and a start-up kit for $24,900. After that, there are no fees but you are required to purchase $6500 of materials a year. Even with the best intentions, someone offering this service is going to look for sales opportunities wherever they can to make up for the cost. To me this is an instance where selling the product is almost as important as what the product is supposed to offer, and an opportunity to propagate the idea that fingerprint/DNA ID kits will make your child safer somehow.

Vlad/Igor

elfkin477
06-13-2009, 09:45 PM
It's not a new practice, so I doubt it has anything much to do with the high profile "kidnappings" (which so seldom turn out to be anyway- am I the only one who automatically assumes most of these kidnapped kids are murdered by loved ones?) on the news lately. I'm in my early 30s and was fingerprinted at Kindergarten registration.

Sage Rat
06-13-2009, 11:25 PM
They had all the kids at my school fingerprinted when I was a kid. I always figured it was a crime prevention measure, not a returning the kid to his parents measure.

Markxxx
06-14-2009, 02:08 AM
I cell phone isn't necessary either but people have conned themselves to believing they must be able to reach someone always (OK I'll admit if you're driving and you break down a cell is nice but I've broken down lot of times before cells and never had much issues, but I'll give you that)

It's a way to sell you something, like most things are. Do you REALLY need to 18,000 songs on your iPod. What you tell yourself, "I'm going jogging for the next 120 hours and I NEVER want to listen to the same song twice?" :)

The fact is yes, very, very rarely kids are taken by strangers, but most of the time abductions happen by family members or close aquaintences. Unfortunately that one time when the stranger bursts in an kidnaps and kills the girl, we remember. Yet a Susan Smith is much more common.

Still I suppose it's no worse than spending money on a movie you hated or buying a pair of pants and not wearing them.

I don't mind products like you if YOU think you need them and YOU WANT them. I hate it when people are conned into it, thinking this.

Ludovic
06-14-2009, 02:15 AM
It's true that most of the time they are either murdered orrun away, but we are finding them more and more years after the fact, both dead and alive, simply because we keep looking.

Fingerprinting, DNA or otherwise, would be useful for identifying children taken before they were verbal, and corpses. But I also wonder if there were any instance of actual fingerprints identifying a missing child, dead or alive.

Zsofia
06-14-2009, 02:42 AM
There are few enough children gone missing that generally speaking they have a pretty good idea of who a body belongs to when they find one, I'd imagine. There are a lot fewer dead missing kids than, say, dead missing hookers.

Auntbeast
06-14-2009, 04:30 PM
So, we need an Ident-A-Ho franchise?

In all seriousness, I hate that so little attention is paid to dead hookers. For one thing, it lets scumbags think it is ok to kill them because no one will care. We should care.

Harriet the Spry
06-14-2009, 08:19 PM
I think a realistic practical use of the fingerprints would be verifying that a missing kid had in fact been in a certain place. This wouldn't necessarily have to be a stranger kidnapping for it to be useful. Why were little Jimmy's fingerprints in Uncle Billy's work truck, anyway? Although throwing up the fear of the relatively rare stranger abduction is a little over the top, you just won't sell anything to anybody by trying to argue that their trusted friends and family members might someday abduct their child, even though that's how it usually happens.

The application could extend to DNA, but I agree a kid's DNA is probably around the parents' house somewhere, on a hairbrush or something. In a clean enough house, they might not have a good set of prints, though.

tygre
06-15-2009, 08:14 AM
I have never heard of a case where these kits led to the identification of a missing child. Generally, like a previous poster mentioned, you can get sufficient DNA to ID the child by his/her parents. Fingerprints can come from toys, books, furniture, etc in the kid's home. Most people have a school picture kicking around --even if you don't buy them, the photographers have one on file when they do class pictures.

These kits serve to sell either peace of mind or as fear-mongering. Take your pick.

VERY few children meet the "Hollywood" style kidnapping where the parent turns their back for a moment and the kid is gone. Try less than 150 kids a year in that scenario.

jharvey963
06-15-2009, 02:14 PM
Sorry to bring in a horrific and tragic use of kid's fingerprints, but here goes.

My 18-yr old nephew was driving his buddies home after a night out. He had one friend to go, who was asleep in the back seat. My nephew missed a turn and the car flipped end over end onto its top. Despite the driver's license he was carrying, the police used his fingerprints to identify him positively, before notifying my brother and sister-in-law that their son had been killed in a car accident. (Apparently, his fingerprints were on file, somewhere.) You can imagine, this is something they DON'T want to get wrong.

J.

Zsofia
06-15-2009, 02:45 PM
And they have, in fact, gotten it wrong before - not long ago there were two blonde college girls who were misidentified after a wreck - one was dead, and one was in a coma. Imagine how you'd feel when you figured out that little mistake.

Swallowed My Cellphone
06-15-2009, 03:14 PM
It's true that most of the time they are either murdered orrun away, Whoa! A little alarmist there! Most missing children are not murder victims. Roughly half of successful child abductions (as in someone actually took the child away for a significant period of time) are parental abductions or family abductions where a child was taken in violation of a custody agreement.

About 10% of successful abductions are from strangers and of that, FBI stats say that roughly 6% of abductions by strangers result in murder (so 6% of 10%).

The other significant number in the stats are the children who were the victim of a crime and temporarily "detained". If an acquaintance or pedophile snatches a child for one hour or more then releases the child, it is logged and prosecuted as an abduction (among other crimes).

So most abducted children are recovered, some may be traumatized and/or injured, but still saying "most of the time they are murdered or run away" is a very misleading thing to say.

TruCelt
06-15-2009, 03:48 PM
I'd be interested to know what the restrictions are on how these prints can be used. Are they forwarded to the police routinely, or only if the child is abducted? Woudl I effectively be entering my child into the FBI's database?

Miller
06-15-2009, 04:48 PM
It's nothing to do with finding kidnapped children. It's so they have the fingerprints already on file when little Johnny grows up to be a criminal. "Do this so we can save your kids life," is just an easier sale then, "Do this to make our job easier if your kid grows up to be a scumbag."

doreen
06-15-2009, 08:42 PM
I'd be interested to know what the restrictions are on how these prints can be used. Are they forwarded to the police routinely, or only if the child is abducted? Woudl I effectively be entering my child into the FBI's database?

When my kids were young, the precinct youth officers were providing kits at a community event. The officers would fingerprint the child onto a folded card which also had a sleeve to hold a recent photograph. The folder was given to the parent, who presumably would provide it to the police if it became necessary. I'm sure the companies provide it to the police only in the event of an abduction - otherwise, they would have no business.

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