Mayor, Police Commissioner Announce Voluntary Program

YONKERS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — It’s every parent’s worst nightmare: their child vanishes without a trace.

As CBS 2’s Andrea Grymes reports, Yonkers officials are now taking steps to prevent the next Etan Patz, Natalee Holloway or Avonte Oquendo from disappearing there.

On Thursday, Mayor Mike Spano and police Commissioner Charles Gardner announced a voluntary initiative in which the city will give out free kits for parents to complete at home with their children, which includes spots for a photo, hair sample, medical information, fingerprints and DNA swabs.

“It’s preparing for the worst, just in case your child goes missing,” Spano said.

Parents keep the kits at home, storing the swabs in the freezer, only to be handed over to police if their child goes missing. It’s a more high-tech approach than in the 1980s, when children were regularly fingerprinted as a precaution.

“In an investigation, we can determine if a child was at a particular location if we take DNA samples,” Gardner explained.

Police can also generally find a missing child’s DNA at home after they vanish, but officials noted that in such cases, every second counts.

Yonkers mom Evelyn Harpur said she supports the program.

“Anything to keep them safe and to help if they went missing I think would be a great thing to have,” she said.

“Absolutely, I think it’s a great idea. I would definitely do that.”

Spano said the kits cost the city little to make. He and police will hold a special event to distribute the free kits at Stew Leonard’s grocery store from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. The kits will also be available at the Yonkers Police Community Affairs Division.

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