OPERATION KIDSAFE: City's first free fingerprint station for families launches

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By Adam Brazeau 
CORNWALL, Ontario - A new free service to help parents and guardians safeguard their children's well-being and gain some peace of mind was unveiled Wednesday.

Mark Bott, the founder of Operation Kidsafe, takes a digital fingerprint of a child from the A Child’s Secret Garden Daycare, as Judy Rose, director of the daycare, lends a helping hand. The free service is offered in the Cornwall Honda showroom.

Cornwall Honda, in partnership with Operation Kidsafe, an organization based out of Springfield, Illinois, launched a one-year digital fingerprint and photo safety program for children and special needs adults.

A dozen tiny tykes from A Child’s Secret Garden Daycare were the first to get their free child safety kit, which includes a 'bio document' featuring a recent photo of the child, a set of digital fingerprints, and important safety tips.

Bill Woolley, owner of Cornwall Honda, said the local car dealership is glad to be playing a key role in child protection.

"On each Cornwall Honda license plate bracket it says 'supporting the community,' and that's what this is all about," said Woolley.

Here's how it works: Cornwall Honda staff will use Operation Kidsafe equipment in the dealership's showroom, specifically a digital video capture device, to take the child's photo and fingerprints. The information is assembled on a quality 8 1/2" x 11" printout and given to the parent or guardian. It is not kept and stored in a database. However, in the case of an emergency, the bio document can be used by the parent or guardian to provide law enforcement with vital information to aid in an investigation.

Operation Kidsafe, founded by Mark Bott, has served more than one million children in the past 13 years. Bott's crusade to protect youth from the dangers of the world, including themselves, evolved from a weekend event to a tireless tour of North America.

Since the first Amber Alert was sent out in 1996, a groundbreaking initiative he was a part of to fight child abduction, Bott has been on a mission. His goal is to keep law enforcement, media, and the public working cohesively when a child goes missing.

"The first thing I want to say is fingerprinting alone will not save a child," said Bott, a parent of seven children. "Our goal is very simple, we would love every single person in the Cornwall area who wants to come in for this free service to start a safety action plan."

He considers 'stranger danger' an outdated term that should no longer be the go-to motto for youth, since many youth-related crimes now hit closer to home.

"Back then, it was common to think the stranger was the only real danger. Today, 80 per cent of the crimes committed against kids are by people they know or perceive they know," he said. "Our number one tip for children is: check first. No matter who approaches you, no matter what they say, as fast you can you run to the adult in charge and check first."

Cornwall Honda is located at 1200 Brookdale Avenue, on the city’s main artery.

Geographic location: Springfield, Illinois, North America

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