Masonic Child ID Program
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Florida Masonic
Child ID Program
or
Masonic CHIP

 

  Over 800 thousand children are reported missing in the United States each year, meaning one every 40 seconds.  Imagine every single citizen of Key West disappearing over a two week period.  That is scary!   There is typically over a two hour delay in making the initial missing child report, and the majority of the abducted children who are murdered are dead within three hours of the abduction. 1   There are estimated to be about 100 cases per year in the US where a child is abducted and murdered.  The victims of these cases are "average" children, leading normal lives, and living with normal families, typical low-risk victims.  The majority of them are girls, with the average age being slightly over 11 years of age.  In 80% of cases, the initial contact between the victim and killer is within 1/4 mile of the victim's residence.

    In our small community in the last couple of years, the headlines of the newspaper reported several sexual predators being arrested.  On August 25th, 2009 in Key West, 39 year old Michael Carroll was arrested for a sex offense against a child under 16; he was a registered sexual predator.  In our little town, at the end of the road, in what most call “Paradise”, there are over 70 registered sexual offenders. 2 

   When I was a teenager in New York, back in the late 70’s,  the headlines of the paper reading of a boy named Etan Patz, who disappeared not far from my house.  I couldn’t believe it.  I always thought and hoped he would turn up back home with his family.  I remember what he looked like, his pictures were everywhere.  He didn’t look much different than I did at his age, and not much different than my son looks today.  He was only 6 at the time of his disappearance and was never found.  In 2003 Jose Ramos was charged with his kidnapping and murder.

     About two years ago, after feeling there was a lack in our community for a program of this kind, I put together what I felt would be something to fill the void.  There were and are other Child ID programs in our area, but none as comprehensive as what I have established.  None even come close.  After many months of research, and a grant from the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department, the in 2007 the Florida Masonic Child ID Program was born.  For those who are unaware, the Masons are the World’s oldest Fraternity.  Formally established in 1717 in London, there are now over four million members worldwide.  Key West has had a Masonic Lodge since 1845.  Most people have a family member or friend who is a Mason and nearly everyone knows the Shriners, who are also Masons.  

     The Florida Masonic “Child ID Program” is now Statewide.  Since its inception, in 2007, we have attended public events, providing ID kits for tens of thousands of children.  The kit includes digital photos of the child, a digital video, digital finger prints and a full description all on a CD.  We also provide a DNA sample and two laminated ID cards (one for the parent and one for the child).  The kit is contained in a standard DVD case and has printed information inside on how to protect your children and keep them safe.  All local law enforcement agencies contact information is provided and since everything is in digital format, all the information can be disseminated very quickly in an emergency.  No information is ever retained by the Masons and a single hard copy is provided to the parents.  All digital records are destroyed before proceeding to the next child, papers shredded.  Best of all, we provide this kit completely free of charge to all families who attend.  Our booth is constantly the busiest one at these events, and we have taken these cues to expand our program.  With many generous donations we have been able to expand our program to meet those needs. Additional Child ID Computers, color laser printers, medical scales, as well as many of the expendable supplies used in the kits have been purchased. 

 

       A cargo trailer is used for transporting all of our equipment and a travel trailer to create an indoor, air conditioned place to provide the program during outdoor events.  With events planned throughout the year.  We expect to ID 300+ children each event, and have set a goal of ID’ing 3000 children every year.  That is about half of the registered school children of the Keys.  We will offer this to service all the families of Monroe County.

    We will be working with our school superintendent, to bring the program directly to our schools.  Parents will be notified by the “Tuesday Newsletter” and the County’s voice messaging system.  This will give us the opportunity to work with larger numbers of children in a convenient location.  We will be providing this program to over 4000 children annually.  Since children’s appearance changes very rapidly, we recommended that the kit be updated every year.  With this in mind, the program can only grow and will go on indefinitely.

    This program is extremely important to our community.  Although in itself it will not prevent a child from disappearing, it is a tool parents can use to talk to their children about the dangers around them.  Families have waited in line for well over an hour to get the kit.  We know it is important to them.  Expansion is our future.   We are currently working on providing information and instructional videos to help families prevent their children from ever becoming a victim.   The areas we are concerned with are sexual predators, child abductors, and our newest threat, Internet predators.  We will work diligently to provide this information to keep our children safe.

    I hope this has shed light on the progress we have been able to make.  Many members and businesses of our community have come forward to help.   The Masonic Child ID Program is absolutely a continuing endeavor, and we will always need support and donations, so please spread the word to your friends and business associates.  I am confident the families of our community will acknowledge the importance of this free service, and will appreciate our continued need for support.

Greg S. Eppy

 

1  Source: Attorney General of the State of Washington, who did a study of cases reported to law enforcement in 1997

2   http://offender.fdle.state.fl.us

 

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