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MetLife Auto & Home, Independent Agents, and Local Police Enforcement Team Up to Make Inroads on Child Safety

The issue of child safety has recently received a lot of national attention - and with good reason. With over 2,000 children reported missing...
April 18, 2003

Partners Find Fingerprint ID Clinics Powerful Tool to Educate, Improve Child Safety, and Build Community Relationships

By Ted Mitchell
MetLife Auto & Home

The issue of child safety has recently received a lot of national attention - and with good reason. With over 2,000 children reported missing in this country every day, many states have been working to strengthen their ability to respond to child abduction reports by introducing powerful tools, such as the AMBER Alert Plan, into their communities. The AMBER Alert involves entire communities assisting in the search for, and safe return of, missing children. This is accomplished by establishing a partnership between law enforcement agencies and broadcasters to communicate across as wide an area as possible; in effect, sending out a powerful "all points bulletin" during the early stages of a possible abduction - the time when the likelihood of safe recovery is greatest.

These measures have proven their worth in dozens of states across the country, and demonstrate the important role that everyone - law enforcement, business partners, and members of the community - plays in protecting the safety and well being of the nation's children. However, such alerts cannot be put into motion until a complete description of the child feared missing is loaded into computers - a task that consumes precious minutes when every second counts.  Since time is such a crucial factor, possessing detailed information can help law enforcement spread the message almost instantaneously, and having additional descriptive information, such as the child's fingerprints, can help police where prolonged searches are necessary. Local businesses and community groups can make a difference by partnering with law enforcement to provide police with the opportunity to obtain fingerprints of their community's children.

"Those prints become invaluable to law enforcement agencies if the child is ever reported missing," says Julia Cartwright, director of Public Affairs for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. "Hopefully you'll never have to use them, but, like a fire extinguisher in your home, they're important resources to have, just in case."

One company that has seen the value in mobilizing resources to help protect children is PIA-CCEO member MetLife Auto & Home. Since September 1999, MetLife Auto & Home has been working with its distribution sources, including its independent agents, to sponsor fingerprint clinics across the country. In fact, this year alone, the company has sponsored 150 clinics throughout the country, including the states of Utah, Indiana, New York, and Florida, and has managed to print over 2,000 children.

"We are proud to partner with MetLife Auto & Home's professional independent agents, who do so much to improve the lives of so many within their communities," said Mike Davidson, vice president of MetLife Auto & Home's independent agent organization. "Through our fingerprint ID clinics, we're pleased to offer them another way to give back and positively impact the most important part of any community--the family."

"These events offer parents the opportunity to have their children professionally printed and to learn important information on child safety," said Deb Sevegny, who is MetLife Auto & Home's national coordinator for the initiative. "Not only that, they provide an opportunity for agents to build their brand in the towns and cities they serve as a caring community partner."

The free fingerprint ID clinics work because MetLife Auto & Home provides everything that an agent needs to make the experience fun for the kids.  Many of the clinics are held with local DARE officers, who are familiar faces to the children. Free coloring and activity books are always on hand for distribution, and fun giveaways are often held.  Whenever possible, MetLife Auto & Home's popular mascot, Snoopy, makes a personal appearance. "Nobody livens up a party like Snoopy," says Sevegny. "He's a true party animal."

Debbie Amidon, MetLife Auto & Home's IA Marketing Manager in Minnesota agrees. "The response from the clinic that I participated in was overwhelming," she said. "I don't know how many times I was thanked for bringing Snoopy and this program to this function."

"So many people valued our support of this worthwhile service," added Renee Banasky of the James Banasky Insurance Agency in Carbon County, Utah. "In addition to the goodwill it created within the community, it was great for business - probably the greatest public relations and advertising effort we have taken part in."

"Agents participate in fingerprint clinics because they want to give something back to the community," said Gina Rose, Marketing Manager in Ohio. "The goal is to connect parents to local law enforcement in an effort to teach child safety, and to establish an important database that can be quickly accessed should the unthinkable occur. Any business written from this type of event is a plus - it just makes you feel good to do something that can have such a big impact."

The impact can be observed by the numbers of parents, guardians, and other concerned individuals attending the clinics with their children. "There was a constant line at our clinic," says MetLife Auto & Home IA Marketing Manager Nancy Brown, who worked with AAA of Northern New England in Portland, Maine, to sponsor a clinic. "The turnout was tremendous, thanks in part to a local radio station, which broadcast 18 radio spots a day for 5 straight days leading up to the event."

Recently, MetLife Auto & Home decided to take its efforts one step further, by introducing a free 12-page comprehensive child personal identification and information guide called  "All About Me."  The guide was developed as the result of a partnership with the New York State Clearinghouse for Missing and Exploited Children, which has participated in several clinics that the company held in the state of New York.

"The new guide enhances the clinics, because now we can provide a truly comprehensive package," said Sevegny. "In addition to providing professional fingerprints, we now offer parents a complete package containing critical safety topics that every child should know, a detailed fact sheet that corresponds to the Missing Children database used by police departments across the country, and a full page for current photographs.  This kit should aid police in the event of an abduction, because everything they'll need to begin their recovery efforts is right at hand."

To ensure that the kit was truly comprehensive, MetLife Auto & Home leveraged its relationship with the Clearinghouse. "It was a perfect collaboration," says Sevegny. "We provided the design expertise, including the use of the popular PEANUTS characters, and the Clearinghouse provided the technical expertise."

"We were pleased to partner with MetLife Auto & Home to produce 'All About Me,'" said Chauncey G. Parker, Commissioner of the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, whose agency oversees the Clearinghouse. "Statistics constantly show that time is our greatest adversary when a child is abducted. 'All About Me' supplies parents with an important tool that quickly provides important details and helps us cast as wide a net as possible in our search for a child."

Reaction to the new brochure has been extremely positive. In fact, the Clearinghouse is using the kits independently from MetLife Auto & Home, as a preemptive strike as they introduce the AMBER Alert System into New York. The Clearinghouse has already exhausted their initial running, forcing a second printing. The state is also using a unique vehicle to spread the word about child safety: with tax season approaching, "All About Me" will be featured in this year's New York State tax return form!

MetLife Auto & Home's unique twist to improving their fingerprint ID initiative has met with popular approval, from agents and customers alike. "We're hoping to set the standard against which other corporate-sponsored clinics such as these are judged," said Sevegny. "By working with local law enforcement and school systems, our agency partners are making a real difference in communities across the country - one child at a time."

Free copies of "All About Me" can be obtained by calling 1-800-638-5433 (1-800-MET-LIFE).

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