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How the FBI Child ID App Aided a Recovery

When a 6-year-old boy was abducted in Puerto Rico in October 2012, the FBI’s Child ID app for mobile phones played a role in the boy’s speedy recovery.

Apr 30, 2014 05:00 PM

How the FBI Child ID App Aided a Recovery

When a 6-year-old boy was abducted in Puerto Rico in October 2012, local media outlets issued conflicting details about the boy’s age; some said he was 7, others said he was 4. Eager to put out an accurate, detailed description to expedite the search, the FBI in San Juan interviewed the missing boy’s parents and asked about his particulars—name, age, and what he was wearing when he was abducted.

“The mother was hysterical,” recalls Diana Rosa, a community outreach specialist in our San Juan Field Office who with the assistance of a special agent was able to question the boy’s parents. The family didn’t have a recent picture of the boy handy, so there was little to work with.

Then Rosa pulled up the FBI Child ID app she had installed six months earlier on her smartphone. The free mobile application, available on iPhone and Android operating systems, is a way for parents to store up-to-date pictures and detailed information about their children in the event they go missing. Rosa, whose job includes talking to community members about subjects like safety, had the app on her own phone because she has a young daughter.

On the phone with the case agent who was interviewing the boy’s parents, Rosa referred to a series of queries on the app that helped guide the agent’s questions and collect more identifying characteristics about the missing boy. The probing prompted the boy’s father to recall a very unique characteristic about one of his son’s front teeth.

Shortly thereafter, FBI San Juan issued a detailed press release containing the new information. Within hours, the boy was released by his captors in a busy office park, where a woman who recognized him from the media reports immediately got help. The boy was reunited with his family the same day.

The FBI released the app for iPhones in 2011 and for Android systems in 2012. While the app wasn’t used quite as intended in this case, Rosa said it was very helpful as a way to collect key information during an emotionally charged moment and showed just how useful the app could be. Now when she meets with parents in the community she passes her phone around and shows them the Child ID app, encouraging them to download it so that they will have everything at hand if they ever need it

“As a mom, I know if my child goes missing I won’t remember what she was wearing that day,” said Rosa, who uploads new photos to the app every time her daughter gets a haircut. “Just knowing it’s a click away on my phone in a matter of seconds is a relief.”

- Read more about the Child ID App
- Endangered Child Alert Program: Help ID Unknown Individuals