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New high-tech weapon to fight child abuse

February 26, 2010 12:29:33 AM PST
L.A. County officials unveiled a new high-tech weapon on Thursday to fight child abuse, hoping it will save hundreds of lives.Like an Amber Alert, L.A. County's E-SCARS program (Electronic Suspected Child Abuse Report System) sends out a warning, not to the public, but to law enforcement from the Department of Children and Family Services. When social workers investigate a case of abuse, police find out immediately.

"This is the first such program of its kind in the nation. It is a giant leap forward," said L.A. County District Attorney Steve Cooley.

Since April 2009, the program has handled more than 28,000 reports. In the past, it took days, even weeks, before the information reached police.

"The call goes to the hotline, it's processed by a social worker at the hotline, and it is immediately sent basically through the Internet, a secure firewall, to the law enforcement agency responsible to investigate," said Susan Steinfield, L.A. County deputy district attorney.

It's all about sharing information with the agencies that need to know. The Department of Children and Family Services has had its share of cases where children who were supposed to be protected ended up getting hurt or killed.

"Had E-SCARS been around, there may have been some possible intervention that could have occurred that might have prevented a tragedy," Steinfield said.

County officials are convinced E-SCARS can help keep those types of things from happening in the future. The district attorney's office is already looking for ways to improve the program, and in the meantime, other counties across the nation are looking at copying E-SCARS for their own jurisdictions.