Masonic Safety ID Program


How It All Began


In 1991 Grand Master, M∴ W∴ Richard P. Thomas requested that his District Deputies come up with ideas for programs that the Grand Lodge could adopt to enhance Masonry. The founder of the Child ID Program was R∴ W∴ Kenneth Wagner, who was Queens District Deputy at the time. The idea came to him while watching America’s Most Wanted. On this program the host, John Walsh, was talking about missing children and he mentioned that parents should keep a videotape of their children for identification purposes in case their child should become missing. R∴ W∴ Ken took the Child ID videotaping idea to the Grand Master who thought it had potential and requested that R∴ W∴ William Bontempts form a committee to develop the idea. A pilot videotape session was conducted on Dec. 7, 1991 at St Paul’s Episcopal Church in College Point, Queens, NY. The public response to the program was spectacular. In order to determine if the results of the first session represented the program’s potential, additional sessions were conducted with the same results. Grand Master Thomas embraced the program and set about establishing a Grand Lodge Committee to oversee the program.

The first State Chairman was R∴ W∴ William Bontempts who was appointed by Grand Master M∴ W∴ Richard Thomas in 1991. Initially the Child ID Program consisted of only videotaping. R∴ W∴ William Bontempts improved the videotaping process and developed a Training Program. In 1992 Grand Master M∴ W∴ Sheldon Blank appointed R∴ W∴ Warren Voegelin as State Chairman. R∴ W∴ Warren continued the Training Program and personally conducted Training Sessions throughout the State. He was also instrumental in initiating the Program in the North Western Region of the State as well as the New York State Fair. He also introduced the Program to the Grand Lodges of Florida and North Carolina and conducted Training in both States. In 1997 Fingerprinting was added to enhance the identification procedure. In 1998 Grand Master M∴ W∴ Stewart C. McCloud appointed R∴ W ∴ Jack Hughes State Chairman who continued the good work of his predecessors.

In 2000 Grand Master M∴ W∴ Carl J. Smith appointed R∴ W∴ Clarence J. Eckhoff State Chairman. In 2002 the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts entered into an agreement with the Massachusetts Dental Society to include dental imprinting in their Child ID Program. The New York Grand Lodge and the New York Dental Society also entered into an agreement and in November 2003, at the New York Dental Society Convention held at the Jacob Javits Convention Center, dental imprinting and collecting a strand of hair (for DNA) was added to our Child ID Program.

In 2003 the Grand Lodge bought two Photo Identification Systems. The Systems consisted of a Computer, Printer (that printed both sides of a plastic card), Camera and a Fingerprint Scanner (which digitized the fingerprint). During the registration process the parents would fill out a consent form, which included information on the child, i.e., name, race, color of eyes and hair, height and weight, as well as any other characteristics such as scars, moles or birthmarks. The Computer Operator typed in the information and using the computer keyboard took the child’s picture and scanned in the right index fingerprint, this information was then printed on a plastic Card. The Child ID Program continued to manually Fingerprint the Child in order to get all ten prints. The cost of the Photo Identification System was $12,000.

Over the years the Child ID Executive Committee under the leadership of R∴ W∴ Clarence worked closely with the police agencies, including the Department of Criminal Justice, to establish a Child ID Program that would be most effective in a Child Recovery. The first result of this collaboration was the discontinuing of the dental imprints as well as taking a strand of hair, since this information would not contribute to a speedy recovery of a missing Child. The police agencies were unable to digitize the video tape for use in the Amber Alert Program; this resulted in the video being removed from the Grand Lodge Child ID Program.

The Photo Identification System nearly met the requirements of the police agencies; however, the Department of Criminal Justice wanted a Compact Disc containing the information provided on the plastic card. The CD would permit a speedy upload of the Child ID information into the Amber Alert Program. The Photo ID System did not have the capability to burn a CD; also, the cost of the system prevented its wide-spread use. This evolution resulted in the current nucleus of the Safety ID Program … the E-Z Child ID System, which consists of a Computer, Fingerprint Scanner, Camera and Printer all in one case. It produces a mini CD imprinted with a file that contains critical identification attributes, as well as a digital photograph and digital fingerprints of the subject. A copy of the Computer screen is printed out, the bottom of the printout cut off and a ID Card is laminated and given to the parent. All information on the ID subject is given to the parent, the only thing retained by the Program is the Consent Form signed by the parent. The purpose of the CD is to serve as a recovery tool to assist in locating and identifying a missing Child. The cost of this new System $2,750. The Grand Lodge has purchased Systems for the 9 MSID Regions in New York. Since the System cost was so reasonable many Districts have bought additional Systems for their use in supporting our Program.

In 2004 Grand Master M∴ W∴ Edward R. Trosin appointed R∴ W∴ Charles P. Uhle State Chairman. Who continued the good work of his predecessors. In 2006 R∴ W∴ Charles P. Uhle stepped down as State Chairman and Grand Master M∴ W∴ Neal I Bidnick reappointed R∴ W∴ Clarence J. Eckhoff State Chairman. R∴ W∴ Clarence continued his good work and over the years the Grand Lodge purchased additional Systems for use at the larger Fairs also, many Lodges and Districts purchased more Systems. In early 2008 R∴ W∴ Clarence stepped down for health reasons. In January 2008 Grand Master M∴ W∴ Neal I Bidnick appointed R∴ W∴ Donald H. Elliott State Chairman.

In 2008 Grand Master M∴ W∴ Edward G, Gilbert, during his term in office, directed the evaluation of the Program to determine if the Program was fulfilling its intended need. Following is the result of that investigation: in New York State alone over 20,000 people turn up missing each year, of these approximately 10% are in the age group considered a “Child”. The reluctance of children over the age of 12 taking part in the Identification Procedure that labels them as a Child meant that the Child ID Program was excluding the individuals in most need of the ID Procedure. Grand Master Gilbert directed that the Child ID Program be expanded to reach all who could be considered at risk. The risk for young people is not restricted to abduction it also includes sexual abuse, spiked drinks and undue influence in the use of drugs. Grand Master Gilbert’s directive also included providing take-home safety information appropriate to the age of the individual undergoing the ID Procedure. The Grand Master further agreed to change the name of the program to eliminate the connotation that the program was for young Children only. Thus the New York Masonic Safety Identification (MSID) Program was initiated and now encompasses every age group, including Senior Citizens.

In 2010 Grand Master M∴ W∴ Vincent Libone appointed R∴ W∴ Paul K. Gibbon State Chairman. In order to assure the MSID Program met all the NY Department of Criminal Justice (DCJ) requirements, the MSID Executive Committee held a meeting with NY DCJ. The NY DCJ agreed that the MSID Program and our resulting CD satisfied all their requirements. At this meeting, the Manager of the NY Department of Criminal Justice’s Missing Persons Clearing House, indicated their biggest problem was missing Senior Citizens not having current photographs. As an example of this problem she related a situation where the only picture available of a missing woman was a group picture and how much trouble they encountered trying to extract her picture from the group and the resulting poor quality. The Manager was assured that the MSID Program had the capability and in fact was making a concerted effort to include Senior Citizens in the Program.

In April 2013 R∴ W∴ Paul attended a Masonichip International meeting in Omaha, Nebraska. At this meeting the NY Masonic Safety ID Program joined Masonichip International in partnership with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in their NCMEC Take 25 Campaign. The Take 25 Campaign encourages parents to take 25 minutes to talk to their children about child safety; NCMEC provides literature to assist parents in this regard. The NCMEC provided our NY MSID Program with Take 25 literature and a Banner that we proudly display at our events. The MSID Executive Committee feels the Banner from NCMEC gives additional creditability to our Program.

On August 13, 2013 at the Erie County Fair the NY MSID Program celebrated its 425,000 ID conducted: Grand Master, M∴ W∴ James E. Sullivan presented a Certificate to Jackson Korn in honor of the 425,000th person ID’ed by the NY Masonic Safety ID (Child ID) Program. Jackson Korn’s family agreed to participate in the event and have his name and picture used in the NY Empire State Mason magazine.

Over the years the Grand Lodge has purchased a total of 50 MSID Systems and Lodges and Districts have purchased 105 Systems. The Masonic Safety ID Program not only provides a valuable public service, it gives Masons the opportunity to bring before their community by example, the principles of their craft, thereby increasing awareness of what Masonry means and what Masons do … provide valuable public service which promotes a positive public image of our Fraternity.