HAMPSTEAD — According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 934 children have been rescued specifically because of Amber Alerts as of October 2018.
A new center in Hampstead will make it easier for parents and guardians to make an Amber Alert safety form to start the process quickly in the event of an emergency where a child is missing.
Community members gathered for a ribbon-cutting for the new Operation Kidsafe Year-Round Child Safety Center, now open to the public at the Allstate office in Hampstead.
And it’s not just for kids. Older and at risk-adults may also benefit from having their fingerprints and photo taken and on-hand.
The service is free and open to the community.
Allan Hendler, the principal at Allstate in Hampstead, said around the age of 1 is when a child’s fingerprints become permanent. An Amber Alert safety form contains a picture of the child and their 10 fingerprints. The center, a setup at the Allstate office that also is portable and can be taken to community events, prints out one sheet with all of this information for parents to take home.
“You have a pre-printed paper already that tells about the kid's safety facts. We're not taking any personal information whatsoever,” Hendler said.
County Commissioner Richard Weaver R-District 2, who attended the opening along with Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, volunteered to be first to test out the system.
Though fingerprinting usually brings to mind inkpads, the center is entirely digital and most people can work through all 10 fingers in about 60 seconds. An attached camera can take an up-to-date photo of the person being fingerprinted that gets added to the same sheet as the prints for easy identification.
Despite a few jokes about his calloused farmer’s hands, Weaver had a printed-out set of prints and photo in short order.
“It was very easy to do,” he said. He hopes to see the technology put in use at events for kids as well as the library and the senior center. Likely, he’ll take his grandkids to have their prints done, he said.
“It’s something the whole community can benefit from,” he said.
Hendler said the program was attractive to them because they’re “the type of company that puts back into the community.”
Going forward, it won’t be the type of project where they wait around for people to come to them and they will do active outreach at local events, he said.
They have use of the equipment for one year and may be able to renew it in the future.
Sheriff Jim DeWees, who as well as a representative from the Hampstead Police Department attended the ribbon-cutting, encouraged the community to make use of the service.
“When law enforcement responds to a missing child or vulnerable adult, it’s important for us to be able to hit the ground running,” he said.
The technology used to take the fingerprints is similar to the system they use at the Carroll County Detention Center, he said.
Darrell Robertson, manager of the North Carroll branch of the Carroll County Public Library, also attended the ribbon-cutting and hopes they can bring the technology into the library for an event soon, maybe even recruiting McGruff the Crime Dog to come along.
Hampstead Town Manager Tammi Ledley said she hoped to see the technology at different festivals throughout the town.
Allstate is “a great addition to our Main Street,” she said.
Associated Insurance LLC Allstate Agency is one of eight new businesses that has opened in the town of Hampstead in the last year and is located at 1210 N. Main St.
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Anyone organizing an event that wants to look into utilizing the system should call 443-639-8777.