West Virginia Adds Amber View To Improve Child Safety

September 28, 2006

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – As thousands of West Virginia students pose for their school pictures this fall, their images will do more than grace the pages of the 2007 yearbook.  

They will be turned into three-dimensional images that authorities can download within seconds of learning a child is missing as part of the Amber View program.  

In such emergencies, the images can immediately be sent to local, county and state authorities, courtesy patrols, media outlets and subscribing cell phones and other sources over existing channels for the national Amber Alert system, which stands for America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response.  

“The Department of Education is committed to keeping West Virginia's children free from harm,” said state Superintendent of Schools Steve Paine. “Amber View adds to our ability to keep every child safe and increases the chance of a good outcome in the unfortunate event of a missing child.”  

A child is reported missing every 40 seconds in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. About 74 percent of abducted children who are murdered are dead within three hours of being kidnapped, about the time it traditionally takes police to get a photo of a missing child.  

Amber View enhances the Amber Alert early warning system by adding a school-based program. Parental approval is required before a high resolution digital image of a child’s face is scanned and recorded. The 3-D format allows the image to be enlarged and viewed from various angles, making positive identification easier.  

Once scanned, the biometric data will be stored on a server at the West Virginia High Technology Consortium Foundation in Fairmont at no cost to parents or schools. The server can hold about 500,000 images.  

Amber View was established in cooperation with the state’s Regional Education Service Agencies, which helped provide training and gain support of county boards of education. They also assisted with parental notification and consent.  

“Parents and schools alike have been enthusiastic about the program,” said Chuck Nichols, director of RESA III in Dunbar. “The process takes only a few minutes and the photos can easily be updated every year on picture day.”  

Amber View is funded with a U.S. Department of Justice grant secured by U.S. Rep. Alan B. Mollohan, D-W.Va. Long-term plans call for expanded the program nationwide.

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