About 800,000 children are reported missing every year in the U.S., and Saratoga business leaders Sam and Linda Palazzole are making sure Capital Region children aren't part of that number.
I wanted to give back to the community and thought one of the best ways to do it was to do something that will protect our children from exploitation and abduction, said Sam Palazzole, a partner in Saratoga Builders.
Palazzole, in conjunction with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), opened an office to serve the Capital District on Monday, Aug. 1, in Saratoga Springs. The space was donated by Saratoga Center for Family. Soon-to-retire Saratoga Springs police officer John Kelly will work out of the office and visit schools and community events to spread awareness about child abduction and exploitation.
What John will be doing is going into schools throughout the Capital Region delivering education programs to children and teachers, primarily to teach them how to avoid abduction and teach them how to avoid exploitation, in particular internet safety," said Palazzole.
Kelly is already a familiar face in Saratoga city schools. He spent at least 15 years of his law enforcement career working with children and young adults in the community.
"We make them understand. We show them what other have done that have gotten themselves abducted [or exploited]," said Kelly. "An adult can preach to them but if we show them real cases that have happened, then kids can kind of relate to what's going on."
Kelly said internet safety will get special emphasis since an increasing number of missing children cases involve running away or being lured out of their home by a child predator online.
"We want to try to discourage them from getting into these conversations and relationships online they think they're having," said Kelly. "Definitely never meet anybody who you've met online. We try to stress that."