Preston’s GM of Langley will be the first place in B.C. to offer an Operation Kidsafe fingerprinting station for families, free of charge.
The unit allows parents to take home a print out of their children’s fingerprints and black and white photograph which can act as a lifetime safety record.
“All of our efforts in giving back to the community are directed at family and kids so this fits nicely,” said Preston’s general manager Peter Heppner.
The machine will be available for families to use in the Preston showroom for at least one year.
On Wednesday, families are invited to celebrate the grand opening of the fingerprinting station at 10 a.m. The founder of Operation Kidsafe Mark J. Bott will be speaking and there are some surprises for kids too, said Heppner.
Vancouver Canucks’ Fin and Fraser, the Rivermen’s mascot will be there as well.
“The more kids the merrier,” said Heppner.
Operation Kidsafe fingerprinting stations has served more than one million children in North America in the past 11 years. The one in Langley will be the eighth in Canada.
Staff at Preston’s will be trained on how to use the machine so it can be used year-round.
Bott, a parent of seven children, said he began “his life’s work,” Operations Kidsafe out of a personal experience involving a child’s safety.
The ex-football player began working with John Walsh, of America’s Most Wanted and was involved in his home town of Dallas where Amber Alerts first began, so named after nine-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was abducted.
“When a child is missing, the public, the media and police all should be on the same page,” said Bott. Fingerprinting is another tool to help.
Bott wants to stress to parents that the machine doesn’t have a database or memory holding each child’s information.
“I am a firm believer that the only ones who need your child’s information is your health provider, school and you,” he said.
But should police need fingerprints, the parents will have them ready. A North American database for police use was established in 2000.
The big focus for Bott is also on keeping children safe through education.
“On the back of their bio document are tips for parents,” Bott said.
Working with the FBI and Secret Service, Bott said he has learned key things children can use to stay safe.
The number one safety tip from the FBI is “Check First,” he said.
“Stranger danger isn’t that applicable given 80 per cent of crimes are done by people children know or perceive they know, like the neighbour that everyone waves at but doesn’t really know.”
Check First teaches children that if anyone approaches them to ask them to go with them, “run as fast as you can to an appropriate adult and check first,” said Bott.
Bott will be speaking about safety tips at the opening at Preston GM on Wednesday, Aug. 21 at 10 a.m. Preston’s is located at 19990 Langley Bypass.