Sunday, April 29, 2001

ID picture worth 1,000 words

By Lew Moores
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Myeisha Underwood, 5, looked self-conscious as she stood against a wall while Ndu Edmondson took her picture, asking the little girl to turn right, turn left and look straight at the camera.

        Myeisha didn't fully understand what was happening — the photos and the fingerprinting that left black ink on her tiny fingertips.

        But her grandmother, Lynn Underwood, did.

        “I feel safer, and I think it's good for them,” said Ms. Underwood, of Winton Place.

        Myeisha was one of scores of children who were fingerprinted and had their photos taken Saturday during Operation Safe Kids, a safety program at the Firstar Boys & Girls Club in Avondale.

        Parents or guardians keep the files that were prepared Saturday. They can be presented to law enforcement if something were to happen to the child or if he or she were to be lost.

        Washington Avenue between Rockdale and Forest avenues in front of the club was blocked off. Black, white and red balloons were released, signifying black and white children and the red blood they both shed when injured.

        The impetus for the daylong event was a report showing that more than 50 percent of all children in Hamilton County who die as a result of injuries are African-American. The event took on greater urgency with the riots in Cincinnati that occurred two weeks ago.

        More than 200 children and adults took part in Operation Safe Kids, organized by a group called Volunteers for Youth Safety. While the children were fingerprinted and their information stored on floppy disks, adults were invited to learn about emergency first aid. Teens were invited to a session on conflict resolution.

        “I love kids, and it's a shame what's happening to them,” said Willie Jones, a Cincinnati firefighter and director of the volunteer group. “Some in society have turned their backs on them. A lot of them think no one cares about them. I'm trying to make a difference.”

        Mr. Edmondson, a fire cadet with the Cincinnati Fire Division, helped take photos of the children. He also brought along two nephews to have identification folders established.

        Cincinnati Police Officer LaDon Laney, a nine-year veteran, helped fingerprint the children. His partner, Police Officer Porter Eubanks, would join him later at the event. Both do community-oriented policing in Avondale.

        “For myself and my partner, this is our neighborhood, and we're taking care of our neighborhood,” said Officer Laney, as he pressed a child's inked fingers to a folder that will contain vital information about the child.

        “This is part of law enforcement that we enjoy.”


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