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January 25, 2007

Biometrics Used in Recovery of Missing Children

By Stefania Viscusi, TMCnet Assistant Editor

A child goes missing every 40 seconds in the United States and 74 percent of those abducted are murdered within 3 hours of the abduction. These unpleasant and startling statistics reported on the AmberView Web site, bring to reality the necessity of developing solutions to aid law enforcement in fighting against this heinous crime.

In an effort to help bring missing children back to their families safely, a national and state AMBER (America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response) Alert program was established.
The system works by alerting government, law enforcement and the public of the abduction or disappearance of a child by broadcasting the information publicly, in hopes that someone will have seen them.
According to the AmberView Web site, since 2002, when national coordination of the alert system was established, 85 percent of recoveries have occurred.
While this can be a successful and much faster way of finding abducted children, adding another element of secure identification, biometrics, can further strengthen recovery efforts.
The AmberView program was developed by the West Virginia High Technology Consortium (WVHTC) Foundation in Fairmont, WV.
The system broadcasts a 3-D image of the missing child minutes after the official AMBER Alert is made.
Because waiting on a photograph from a parent after a child has been abducted can take just as long as statistics show murders occur, the 3-D format makes it easier to identify a possible victim.
With parents consent, children are enrolled into the program and their photo, biographical and biometric information as well as a 3D image are stored digitally and updated annually.  
Recently, SecurLinx, a West Virginia-based provider of integration software including storing, processing and sharing of biometric template information for law enforcement and the security industry, announced the delivery of a biometric platform for Phase II of the AmberView Program.
Phase II of the program, which also includes the uploading of the 2D and 3D images, will be tested by eight law enforcement agencies in West Virginia.
According to a news release, the SecurLinx biometric middleware makes it possible to "transmit photos taken on mobile phones and PDA's equipped with built-in cameras to a facial recognition system for comparison to images of missing children."
This technology is especially important considering that abductors are known to sometimes show off their abductees in public places after the abduction and the alarming number of children murdered just shortly after being abducted, make a solution that will more quickly and positively identify them, much needed.
As Barry Hodge, CEO of SecurLinx explained in a statement, "In these types of situations, it is not unusual for the abductor to alter the appearance of the child. This capability is one more tool at the officer's disposal to aid in the real time identification of a missing child."
Stefania Viscusi is an established writer and avid reader. To see more of her articles, please visit Stefania Viscusi’s columnist page.

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