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Security bracelet foils child abduction

RFIDs tags put to good use

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A father's attempts to abduct his infant son from a North Carolina hospital last week were foiled by an electronic bracelet around the baby's ankle. Walter Mitchell was apprehended by hospital security guards outside Presbyterian Hospital in Charlotte after his flight with his newborn son in a cloth bag triggered a "code pink" alert.

The alert prompted hospital staff to guard exits of the hospital. Although Mitchell made it from the hospital's seventh-floor nursery onto the street via an emergency exit he was quickly apprehended by guards. The baby was returned unharmed to Presbyterian Hospital, where it was attending a check-up.

The baby was already under the care of social services after his parents, Mitchell and Juanita Slade, were charged with child abuse and neglect charges involving the alleged mistreatment of their other kids. Mitchell told police he snatched his newborn because he didn't want to surrender the custody of another child to social services, WSOC-TV reports. Both Mitchell and Slade have been remanded in custody following the alleged abduction last Friday (15 July).

Presbyterian Hospital installed the "Hugs" Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) infant protection system when it opened its new maternity center last September. The "Hugs" Infant Protection System, part of the June 2005 acquisition of Instantel by VeriChip, which is best known for its controversial people chipping technology, contains a tiny radio transmitter designed to prevent infants from being removed from a health care facility without authorisation. Every infant wears a Hugs tag on the ankle or wrist, and exit points throughout the hospital are electronically monitored to detect unauthorised removal of an infant. The use of electronic bracelets to protect kids in maternity wards is commonplace in the US. RFID-tags represent a refinement of the technique.

According to VeriChip, there have been 233 infant abductions in the US over the last 22 years. Half of these abductions occurred from health care facilities. VeriChip's RFID infant protection systems are designed to combat not only infant abductions, but also accidental infant mismatchings. The firm says its systems are installed in approximately 900 US hospitals. ®

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