Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Computer Age Progression Aids in Recovering Abducted Children A New Technique Allows an Artist to Merge the Picture of the Missing Child with Photos of Older Siblings or Parents to Simulate Growth. the Results Can Be Dramatic

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Computer Age Progression Aids in Recovering Abducted Children A New Technique Allows an Artist to Merge the Picture of the Missing Child with Photos of Older Siblings or Parents to Simulate Growth. the Results Can Be Dramatic

Article excerpt

IN November 1990, a man opened a bank account in Fairhope, Ala., with a young boy in tow.

Something about the man and the boy made a bank employee suspicious. The man said the boy was his son, but he seemed too old. He claimed to be a New York attorney, but he was driving a vehicle with Georgia plates. On a hunch, the employee called the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

After further investigation, the FBI contacted the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, in Arlington, Va., which has helped recover more than 19,000 children since 1984. The center searched its database and correctly matched the case with Jonathon Celom, who had been missing for months. Authorities arrested his abductor and reunited the boy with his mother.

The Celom case is one example of how technology is helping to find missing children.

Last March, a restaurant customer in Illinois overheard an unusual conversation. A woman, who called herself Melissa Smith, claimed she had been on the run for three years with her eight-year-old daughter, Tiffany. Notified of the incident, the center searched its database and matched the case with Tiffany Pittman, who had been abducted by her noncustodial mother in 1987.

The center also used a new computer technology, called age progression, to give authorities an updated image of Tiffany. Within days, the child was reunited with her father.

"Someone in America knows where these children are," says Ernie Allen, president of the center. The trick is to get the information to those people.

"The message is: This technology can find kids," adds Ralph Hammock, program administrator of desktop systems for IBM.

A little over a year ago, IBM, Sony, and a software company called QMA Corporation gave the center computer hardware and software that allows artists to "age" pictures of children who have been missing a long time.

One FBI forensic artist has used this technique for years by hand. …

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