By Jason A. Smith
Representatives of the Georgia Child Identification Program (GACHIP) registered more than 90 youngsters recently at the Stockbridge Masonic Lodge Hall.
More than 45,000 children state-wide are part of the 2-year-old program, according to Ross Laver, GACHIP state director. It was launched by the Freemasons' Grand Lodge of Georgia in 2008.
The youngsters were registered using GACHIP's identification package that law enforcement uses to find missing kids, according to Laver. "The package utilizes state-of-the-art technology, capturing fingerprints, photos ... a video interview and demographics. We also do a dental impression, which stores DNA and scents for tracking dogs," said Laver, following Saturday's local registrations.
"We create identification packages for families so that, in the event a child goes missing, law enforcement will have the best possible opportunity to return that individual to their family as quickly as possible," he added.
The information collected by GACHIP, Laver continued, is put onto a CD to be given to parents, and is not kept by the Masons or any law enforcement agency. Laver said parents are "always grateful" to the organization for registering their children with the program, which has generated significant interest in the last two years.
"There are other states that started the program before we did," he said. "But, none has stepped up with the volume of people we have produced IDs kits for in our short existence."
Laver said parents of those children are typically grateful for CHIP. "The good news is that of the ... children who we have created ID kits for, to date, there have been no reports of one of our children missing," Laver said. "Their [parents'] response is, 'I hope I don't need it, but I'm glad I've got it.'"
Henry County Sheriff Keith McBrayer said he appreciates the Masons' collective desire to assist in missing-child cases through CHIP. He said the program falls in line with other programs at his agency focused on protecting, and educating, young people.
"We do so much for the youth in the county," McBrayer said. "All of those [efforts] involve some kind of safety, whether it's bicycle safety, gun safety, saying no to strangers, no to drugs and things like that. This program does the same thing. It's a way to gather information that could be needed if a child is missing, and could help an investigation."
For more details, visit www.gachip.org.