Portable computer drive holds valuable data in case child goes missing

By Douane D. James
Education Writer
Posted November 28 2005

A few Cooper City High School teachers have expanded their jobs from
teaching students to tracking them, by developing a device to help
parents find children who are abducted or go missing.

The “Amber Stick” is a lightweight plug-and-play computer flash drive. It
takes its name from the Amber Alert, a mass-bulletin system used to
quickly spread attention about abducted children who might be in danger.

The Amber Stick is pre-coded to allow parents to store photographs and
useful information about their children. Parents can attach it to a key
chain and give it to law enforcement officials when reporting their
children missing.

“It’s instant access,” said Peter Engelson, a science teacher at Cooper
City High.

The basic information on each drive includes a physical description of
the child, home address and emergency contact names and phone numbers.
Parents also are asked to scan and save three recent photos of their
child.

The teachers say the storage device is like insurance, good to have even
if you never need it.

“In a crisis situation where the parents are upset, all the information
is at hand,” said Cynthia Turni, a foreign language teacher at Cooper
City High.

The first few hours after abduction are the most crucial to bringing a
child home safe, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Hundreds of thousands of children go missing each year, but many are
runaways or abductions by family members. The U.S. Department of Justice
estimates that 58,000 children annually are victims of non-family
abductions.

Cooper City teachers developed the idea for the Amber Stick during a
brainstorming session earlier this year, Engelson said.

The group plans to sell the devices for $20 each through the school’s
Youth Crime Watch club, he said.

So far the response has been positive, Engelson said, and the club will
pitch the Amber Stick to other schools.

A spokesman for the FDLE, which administers Amber Alerts in Florida,
declined to comment on the Amber Stick, saying the agency avoids
endorsing products.

“The concept of parents having recent photos and biographical [data] of
their children at their fingertips is excellent,” said Bob Hoever of the
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. “USB drives are just
the new way right now.”

More information about the product is available at www.amberstick.com
(Link: http://www.amberstick.com/).

Copyright © 2005, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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