City of residence: Warner Robins
Occupation: Centerville Police Department, GACHIP event coordinator
QUESTION: What is GACHIP?
ANSWER: Its an event where parents can get the information they would need to help authorities find their lost, runaway or abducted children. GACHIP stands for Georgia Child Identification Program.
QUESTION: Whats the time and place for the coming GACHIP event?
ANSWER: July 7 at Centerville City Hall at 300 East Church St. Its from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
QUESTION: Is there a cost?
ANSWER: No, its free to parents and guardians for their children.
QUESTION: What does GACHIP provide?
ANSWER: A number of useful items. Well take and give parents an oral DNA swab from their children thats kept in a glass tube and is good for 10 years. Well take digital photos and video, and well make a set of digital fingerprints, as well as recording distinguishing features such as hair and eye color and scars. Well give parents this information on a DVD they can keep on hand in case its ever needed.
QUESTION: No actual chips involved?
ANSWER: No, no actual chips.
QUESTION: With missing children in the news recently, this is a timely event, isnt it?
ANSWER: The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says a child is reported missing every 43 seconds. I have a fear that while Im on duty a child will go missing that I wont be able to find. Id live with that for the rest of my life. With GACHIP, Im able to deal with that fear by knowing Im helping as many children as I can increase the odds theyll be recovered by having good information for authorities to use. This gives us everything needed for an Amber Alert.
QUESTION: Is the GACHIP program just for children?
ANSWER: No. This year were making it available to the elderly and adults with disabilities, so that expands it quite a bit. We especially encourage parents to bring their infants. That hospital footprint doesnt do us much good. Infants are born with their hands closed, so they do footprints. Getting fingerprints on an infant is crucial identification for us if they go missing. If an infant is at home, theyre old enough to come and get fingerprinted. It doesnt go on record, it goes with the parents.
QUESTION: Centerville is a sponsor. Is this limited to Centerville residents?
ANSWER: No, anyone is welcome from Warner Robins or Perry or from across the county or across the state.
QUESTION: What else is involved in the event?
ANSWER: Well be doing car-seat fittings and, as long as our supply lasts, well make sure parents who are unable to purchase car seats get one without worrying about getting a ticket from us.
QUESTION: Where do the car seats come from?
ANSWER: John Palmer of Centerville Allstate Insurance generously gave a check for $1,000 to provide seats.
QUESTION: Who is sponsoring the event?
ANSWER: Masons of Georgia fund the entire cost of the GACHIP identification programs around the state, and Tyrian Lodge No. 111 of Warner Robins, of which Im a member, is sponsoring the one here with the city of Centerville and other community sponsors.
QUESTION: Such as?
ANSWER: Centerville Subway, Chick-fil-A, Centerville Papa Johns Pizza, Golden Corral, Buffalo Wild Wings and Sears.
QUESTION: Aside from your role as an officer, how did you get involved in this effort? Youve put a lot of work in it.
ANSWER: First of all, Ive got a large family myself, and my oldest child is an adopted Vietnamese boy. I did two tours in Vietnam and have seen too much death. After retiring from the military, I went to work for the Bibb County Sheriffs department, and Ive had to put hundreds of children in the morgue for various reasons. Theres nothing worse than a child being killed in a car accident for lack of a car seat or for not wearing a seat belt.
QUESTION: If anyone needs further information prior to the event, who can they contact?
ANSWER: They can call 714-9193 and leave a message. Well get back to them.
-- Michael W. Pannell