Proactive Approach Taken to Protect Kids

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CLEVELAND – Cleveland law enforcement marked National Missing Children’s Day by trying to keep young people safe. It had an added significance in Cleveland with the recent rescue of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight - who had been kidnapped and held captive for a decade.

The Cleveland FBI and Cleveland Division of Police set up a command center at the Westtown Plaza Saturday to observe National Missing Children’s Day.

The main purpose was to hand out child identification kits and information on child safety.

Naomi Goolsby picked up kits for her three children.

“Identification kits, just in case anything happens,” she said.

Heidi Avancini took the opportunity to get her children fingerprinted. “If they ever get lost, kidnapped or runaway, you have a way to identify them,” she said.

In addition to the fingerprinting, the kits include a way to collect a DNA sample.

Cleveland FBI Assistant Agent in Charge Todd Wickerham said both can be helpful to law enforcement in finding missing children.

"It's a very simple procedure you can do at home, the fingerprinting and the swabbing together to collect DNA.  And keep it someplace so that if your child ever goes missing those tools are available immediately to law enforcement,” Wickerham said.

Police also recommend parents take photos of their children every six months to record changes in their appearance.

Parents also received information from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children called “Take 25” – ways to talk to children about safety and stranger danger.

"They gave a great sheet on starter questions on how to talk to your kids about strangers, what to do if they're lost. How to tell them their phone number, address,” Avancini said.

Police also used the day to highlight two missing persons cases.

Christina Adkins and Ashley Summers were both teenage girls from Cleveland’s west side when they went missing.

Christina was last seen in 1995 and Ashley nearly six years ago.

"We never stop looking for these missing children and making these investigations, keeping them in the forefront,” Wickerham said.

Cleveland Indians player Nick Swisher donated the money for the identification kits. More kits are to be passed out at the Indians game at Progressive Field Thursday.

For more information on the kits, visit www.childidprogram.com.