Thursday, August 20, 2009

Tagging to Prevent International Child Abduction

Time magazine has an interesting article on the technological advances in Seoul, Korea, entitled Seoul: World's Most Wired Megacity Gets More So.

Part of the article caught my eye because it has great application in preventing international child abduction:

Earlier this year, the city rolled out U–safety zones for children, a program using security cameras, a geographic-information-system platform and parents' cell-phone numbers. Participating families equip their kids with a U-tag — an electronic signature applied to a coat or backpack that allows a child to be tracked at all times. If the child leaves a designated ubiquitous-sensor zone near a school or playground, an alarm is automatically triggered alerting parents and the police. The child is then located via his or her mobile phone. The city plans to increase such zones rapidly. To some Americans, the Big Brother–ish qualities of the U-city push can be a tad unnerving. But Seoul officials point out that the U-safety-zone project is entirely voluntary, and the technologically sophisticated citizens seem to have few objections.

Since the United States does not have any exit controls, meaning that U.S. borders are totally open for people to leave and take any child with them, most court orders purporting to prevent international child abduction are far too weak.

Judges generally need to require supervised visitation if they really want to allow a potential parental child abductor to have access to a child while genuinely preventing abduction. This is a remedy that judges are often reluctant to order.

Technology might provide an answer. We would need electronic tags that would trigger an alarm if they were removed, if the child were taken anywhere out of a designated area or if the child were taken near an airport or state or international border. The alarm would need to be sent to the appropriate police authorities, as well as to the other parent, and the police authorities would need to be both authorized and required to make an immediate arrest.

The authorities in the United Kingdom have already implemented such a scheme, although on a less sophisticated basis.
See England: Electronic Tagging to Prevent Re-Abduction of Child

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