How Fingerprints
   DN'T
   Find Missing Children

Both the FBI and the American Football Coaches Association have partnered with the National Child Identification Program to help distribute fingerprinting kits in order to help find missing children. Their motto is, "Be Prepared, Not Scared."
NCIP began in 1997. According to the Carmel Unified School District, NCIP has (or had at the time the undated article was written) "more than 30 million ID kits have been distributed, with a goal of protecting all 60 million children in the United States." Kits are available on the NCIP website from between $9.95 to $2.95, depending on whether one wants one or five thousand.

NCIP is not alone in their fingerprinting of children. McGruff, the official spokes-dog of the National Child Safety Council sells kits for between $3.00 and 89¢ each with the same quantity breakdown as NCIP. Protect Your Child, which has been doing this for more than 20 years, offers fingerprinting kits for 49¢ each for a minimum order of 250, with "volume discounts available." Decades ago, the now defunct Missing Children Help Center used to do the same. Klaas Kids has fingerprinted over a million children, though they have done this for free, and various others have gotten into the act. And the list of companies doing this goes on and one. But does fingerprinting or even DNA printing children really work? The clear-cut answer is no. To date not one child has ever been recovered or even identified dead as a result of a fingerprint kit. When asked to provide the name of just one child found as a result of their more than 30 million kits, Kenny Hansmire, Executive Director of NCIP, defended his program with, "We don't keep statistics."

In Great Britain, the story is a bit different and has nothing to do with missing children. In fact, one out of three secondary schools in the UK is now forcing children to swipe their fingerprints just to register in class, get their lunch or take out library books. Education Secretary Michael Grove stated, "I believe the fingerprinting of children is a totally unnecessary infringement of civil liberties." Of course, in the UK this was all done without parental permission. Still, critics maintain that this is just one way of conditioning children to accept the new Orwellian society, brought into startling light by the film Minority Report, where by merely walking into a building, a computer can identify anyone through long-distance retinal imaging.

So is Big Brother watching? Consider the fact that NCIP's website boasts the FBI emblem in repetition on each of its webpage backgrounds. On April 26, 1999, the Texas legislature passed a bill that mandated that every one of its more than four million children attending public schools in the state of Texas would be offered an inkless ID kit. In 1999, both the Nebraska and Tennessee governors proclaimed March 2000 as "Child Identification Month." And according to the NCIP website, "The National Child Identification Program and the AFCA were recognized by Congress in 2001 with the unanimous passage of House Congressional Resolution 100, which commended the AFCA for its dedication and efforts in protecting children by providing a vital means for locating the nation's missing, abducted and runaway children.

NCIP's website offers two scenarios of how their ID kits help to find missing children:

John, age 12, is abducted by his father, who is divorcing his mother and believes the court will not grant him visitation. John's father takes him from Boston to Los Angeles. For the next four years, John and his father have absolutely no contact with John's mother. When John turns 16, he goes to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get his driver's license. The DMV scans his fingerprint, which is entered into the DMV's database. From there, it is automatically sent to the California Crime Information Center and the National Crime Information Center. The fingerprint matches the record of a missing child in Boston, and John is reunited with his mother.

Sarah, age 14, runs away from her home in Dallas. She has been gone for six months and is forced to turn to shoplifting to continue her flight. Her crimes are not large - a loaf of bread here, a carton of milk there - but eventually she is caught and fingerprinted in Tucson, Ariz. When her fingerprints are sent to the National Crime Information Center, they show that Sarah is a runaway from Dallas. The police are notified, and Sarah is reunited with her parents.


Let's look, though, at the first case of John, age 16. By the age of 14, most teens are on Face­book. Does his mother need the DMV to help locate him? Probably not. But why weren't John's father's fingerprints enough to locate him through DMV records in those four years? Didn't John's father, who took him out of state, need to apply for a California drivers license where index finger prints are mandatory?

And what about Sarah, the first person to steal a loaf of bread since Jean Valjean in Les Misérables. (If a runaway girl is going to steal anything from a store, it is probably going to be either makeup or chips, but this just demonstrates how out of touch with reality NCIP appears to be.) Again, NCIP's Kenny Hansmire stated that it takes about 30 days for a runaway's photo to be entered into NCIC. That's a long time for Sarah to be out on the streets. That long out, the now streetwise Sarah, now knows how to survive on her own without getting caught. But let's just say that she does. Why did Sarah run in their first place? Was her mom's boyfriend molesting her? And if the fingerprinting kit did work, what then? Does she wind up back home to be molested again, possibly to kill herself after one too many times?

NCIP, on its website, states that "800,000 children go missing every year—one child every 40 seconds." Yet the vast majority of this number are short-term runaways, who crash at friends' houses, and turn up back home after just a day or so. About a quarter of this number are parentally abducted, who generally are not at risk of harm. That is not to say that no one should try and find any child who is missing, but you don't use paper to build an airplane wing. It won't fly and neither does the fingerprint mania that has apparently swept the nation. It is scare tactics and it just does not work. Thirty million kits, even at $2.95 still comes out to $88,500,000 (with the potential amount at $9.95 per being $298,500,000). That's a big chunk (and a potential bigger chuck) of change for pie in the sky. Maybe, though, if someone can convince refrigerator manufacturers to stop making fingerprint-proof refrigerators, the "free" world can dispense with, once and for all, both the kit and the caboodle of hucksters selling empty air.