CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Across the United States, a child is reported missing every 40 seconds. That's 800,000 children a year, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. While many children are found safe, of those who are murdered after being abducted, 40 percent are killed within the first hour, about the time it traditionally takes police to get a photo of a missing child.
In an effort to respond more quickly and safely to reunite more children with their families, the West Virginia Department of Education has joined a partnership to create the AmberVision program. A secure database accessible only by law enforcement will be created from photos taken this fall as students pose for their school pictures. Authorities will be able to download the images within seconds of learning a child is missing.
This highly sophisticated system uses state of the art biometric technology to turn a child's school photo into a 3-D avatar to better assist law enforcement, the media and the general public to facilitate an abducted child's safe return. AmberVision will work in conjunction with the AMBER Alert program, a voluntary partnership between law-enforcement agencies, broadcasters, transportation agencies, and the wireless industry, to activate an urgent bulletin in the most serious child-abduction cases.
"The Department of Education is committed to keeping West Virginia's children free from harm," said state Superintendent of Schools Steve Paine. "AmberVision adds to our ability to keep every child safe and increases the chances of a good outcome in the unfortunate event of a missing child."
The West Virginia Board of Education currently is in the process of updating Policy 4350 - Procedures for the Collection, Maintenance and Disclosure of Student Data to require that student photo records be kept and to provide consistent school directory data statewide. The policy is currently out on comment and should be approved before the beginning of school. AmberVision will help West Virginia's 55 county school systems comply with these new state regulations.
Superintendents will be asked to make sure that school administrators are checking to see that all children's names and photos match. County school systems will then be asked to share the school directory information, including the electronic picture, with AmberVision each October. The project will serve nearly 282,000 children enrolled in 742 public schools across West Virginia in addition to nearly 100 children enrolled at the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and the Blind.
"A missing child is every parent's worst nightmare," Paine said. "AMBER Alert has proven to be an effective tool in helping reunite families. AmberVision will add to the effectiveness of the AMBER Alert program by expanding the database so that law enforcement is better prepared should the unthinkable happen. When a child is lost or abducted we want everyone to be vigilant and aware. AmberVision will help us do just that."
The AmberVision program picks up where the AmberView program left off when it was dissolved in 2009 when the National Institute of Justice stopped funding the program. Thousands of photos collected through AmberView were destroyed, making the AmberVision partnership even more important.
For more information on the AmberVision program, contact the Office of Communications at 304-558-2699. Information also is available on the AmberVision website at http://www.ambervision.org.
Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.