Summer is officially over and soon the leaves will be turning beautiful colors. The vacations are behind us as we settle into out autumn schedules and the kids are back in school.

During this change of seasons, we may need some reminders of the needs of our children and the services that are available from our law enforcement agencies.

Some parents may not know that New Jersey is the only state in the country that has legislation providing a “Fingerprint on File” service be available to our children and their parents. The long-running program began when the public was traumatized by child abductions.

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With statistics revealing that nearly a million children are reported lost or missing each year the community looked to law enforcement for new ways to protect children. The fingerprinting program was a simply way to identify our young people. Parents receive a card featuring the child’s fingerprints and personal information. In case a child is reported missing, the card provides police with important data.

Other children’s safety programs are available to help protect our young people. The Union County Sheriff’s Office, with the assistance of Dr. Freda Remmer and her students at Kean University, developed a book for children to teach them how to properly react in a potentially dangerous situation. The book, “Play It Safe,” was carefully designed to present different scenarios for children to role play as they think out the right course of action. The book is available at no cost in English and Spanish.

Firearms are one of the principle causes of death among American children today. The Sheriff's Office has developed videos to educate children and teens about the dangers of firearms. These videos, “Get Away Get a Grown-Up” and “Teens and Guns: An American Tragedy,” have been shown in schools all over Union County.

Now we are offering a new video about gun safety called “Silence Kills.” It was made by some very talented students from Hillside High School, the winners of the Union County Gun Awareness Contest.

We also offer, at no charge, locking devices for legally registered firearms to help kept guns properly secured at home.

Under the innovative "Project Lifesaver" program, individuals with Alzheimer's disease, autism or other debilitating disorders are outfitted with a watch-sized transmitter that can be tracked by the Sheriff's Search and Rescue Unit if the individual is reported missing or lost. New Jersey is the only state in the country that provides state-wide “Project Lifesaver” coverage.

Please take advantage of these services to help protect our children and our senior citizens. Prevention and education are paramount. For information about any of these programs, please call the Union County Sheriff’s Office at 908-527-4450.

Ralph Froehlich is the Union County Sheriff