By: Sandy Meindersma CORRESPONDENT
HOLDEN — As part of the first Holden Winter Festival Saturday, Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis rolled out The Child Project to Worcester County.
Operated by the Nation’s Missing Children Organization and Center for Missing Adults in Phoenix, The Child Project uses digital photography to scan a child’s iris, compares it to the data already stored in a national database and then stores it in the database with the child’s information.
There are more than 1,300 sheriff’s offices who are using The Child Project, which Sheriff Evangelidis likened to child fingerprinting programs that became popular in the area after Molly Bish disappeared from Comins Pond in Warren.
“It’s 10 times more accurate than a fingerprint,” Sheriff Evangelidis said. “And unlike fingerprints, the iris doesn’t change over time.”
While fingerprinting requires some effort to get an accurate print, the iris scan is done in a few seconds without the mess.
Sheriff Evangelidis said he purchased the iris scanner soon after his election as sheriff in 2010. He initially used the iris scanner with the elderly, in order to protect those with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia who may wander off.
Sheriff Evangelidis said that he chose the Holden Winter Festival to launch The Child Project because he wanted to be sure that he selected a place where parents could give their consent to the scan.
“As a father of two children, I will always remember registering my children with fingerprint identification kits,” he said. Today, with new advances in technology, there is now a more accurate way to identify a child. With iris scan technology we now have positive identification in the blink of an eye that is ten times more identifiable than a fingerprint.”
Approximately 120 children had their irises scanned at the Winter Festival.
Sheriff Evangelidis said that he plans to make the iris scanner available at public and special events, as well as through social service agencies and community centers.
“I cannot think of anything more important than protecting and keeping our children safe,” he said