Mark Bott, founder and national program director of Operation Kidsafe, wants to give parents something they’ll never need.
His mission is to provide free fingerprint ID kits to parents, which could help identify their children in the case of emergency.
During the past 15 years, the father of seven has launched nearly 40 fingerprinting sites across the United States and Canada.
On Dec. 11, Operation Kidsafe‘s Child Safety Center was unveiled at Texas Toyota of Grapevine — the fourth in Texas and the first in the Metroplex.
At the event, Mayor Pro Tem C. Shane Wilbanks joined Bott, city leaders and representatives from police, fire and other departments.
“Grapevine is a family-oriented community that draws many visitors due to our family-oriented activities,” Willbanks said. “As a result, we have a large number of children in our community both as residents and as visitors. As a family oriented-community, we have both the desire and the need to protect all of these children in every way that we can.
“If there is ever an emergency, Operation KidSafe and Texas Toyota of Grapevine will have parents better prepared to hand law enforcement vital information to act fast.”
Operation Kidsafe has fingerprinted more than one million children.
Using a Cross Match fingerprint scanner, Operation Kidsafe takes children’s fingerprints and prints them in a standardized format to give to parents. Bott, an advocate for privacy, says that the prints are never maintained in the system. Instead, they are erased at the beginning of each new session.
“I feel like the only people who should have information on a child are their parents, dentists and doctors,” said Bott, who is headquartered in Springfield, Ill.
The Operation Kidsafe system, procedure and layout were developed using consultants from the FBI, police officials and fingerprinting experts. Using all digital systems, they capture the fingerprints of each hand along with a full digital head and shoulder photograph. The information is printed on hard copy and handed to a parent for safekeeping.
Should a child become lost, or even worse, kidnapped, the parents would call 911 and let law enforcement know they have an Operation Kidsafe document, Bott said.
“The Police Department will know how to handle it from there,” he said.
The only record of the visit goes home with the family. The parents get the 8 1/2x11 printout with the child’s fingerprints and photo. This document would make it simple for the authorities to publish as they deem necessary for distribution and entry into the National Crime Computer, Bott said.
“Don’t forget that the focus of this event is education,” Bott said. “With the Operation Kidsafe safety tips, children can avoid many compromising situations. It is the perfect time for parents to cover these tips with their children and start a family safety action plan. It heightens awareness and gets parents or any trusted adult to talk to kids about safety.”
As long as the child is with a trusted adult, Operation Kidsafe will provide the service to every family. Adults can use the safety tool, too, Bott said, citing as an example those with special needs. He said schools and other groups are encouraged to participate.
“It takes about 60 seconds or less and no ink is involved,” the founder said.
Bott said the program is available to organizations that come to him. Many automotive dealerships have partnered with his group.
A former Toyota dealer, Bott said Texas Toyota of Grapevine representatives inquired about offering the fingerprint station. Under his guidelines, they will provide the service for a year.
He was emphatic that no strings are attached, such as requiring a test drive of a vehicle.
His personnel install the equipment and provide training to employees.
“It’s a feather in their cap,” Bott said of those who offer the service. “It’s something for the community.”