January 18, 2022

Cortland County Sheriff’s Office IDs children at Maple Festival

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Cortland County Corrections Officer Troy Reynolds digitally scans the fingerprints of Larry Tull, 7, of Maine, Broome County, on Saturday as part of a free child identification card program at the Maple Festival in Marathon.

For the first time at the CNY Maple Festival, parents had the chance to have their children photographed and critical identifying information recorded as part of Operation Safe Child.

Operation Safe Child uses digital fingerprinting technology and high-resolution photography to provide child ID cards for parents and guardians. Information gathered can be used to quickly provide important details to police agencies during investigations.

Cortland County Sheriff Mark Helms greeted people Saturday morning in the Marathon Junior-Senior High School and offered a chance for parents to make use of the photo and fingerprinting service the sheriff’s office bought last year.

The program was first used more than two weeks ago when more than 40 kids were entered into the database in around two hours through the McGraw Parent Teacher Organization, Helms said. From 9 a.m. to just around 10 a.m. Saturday, around 10 families had used the program.

The system allows the Sheriff’s Office to provide a photo ID containing a child’s name, date of birth, gender, height, weight, hair color, eye color and fingerprints of both index fingers. The information is then stored in a statewide database.

However, Helms said storing the information is completely up to the parents. The information is stored in the database until the child turns 18. “Then it’s erased … it’s basically purged,” Helms said.

Larry Tull Jr., of Maine in Broome County, was visiting family in Killawog at the maple festival and decided to update information for his son, 7-year-old Larry Tull III.

The cards are nice to have in case of an emergency, Tull said. “We had his done years ago and found the card again.”

Tull said his youngest son Carter, 4, was entering into the program Saturday for the first time.

After the Tulls finished having their cards prepared, more families followed suit.

Marshall Morehouse was with his nephew, Isaac Chapin, 4. “I think it’s good to have in case of emergencies,” Morehouse said.

Isaac’s mother, Carol Chapin, said she had her son’s information added into the system just in case anything happened.
One issue a parent might have is privacy. Chapin said she feels the police use good security systems, she trusts them and doesn’t think privacy would be an issue.

Chapin said she has plans to have her second son, 10-month-old Leo, entered when he gets old enough.

Helms was assisted Saturday by Courtney Metcalf, assistant director of emergency response and communications for Cortland County, Road Patrol Officer Stacy Billings and Corrections Officer Troy Reynolds.

Helms said he doesn’t have the staffing to operate the system at the Sheriff’s Office, so he’s hosting it at places where large numbers of people come.

The next scheduled event featuring the Operation Safe Child program is at the Cortland County Junior Fair July 4 through July 8.