For years, dairies have printed pictures of missing children on milk cartons. But the chances that somebody will recognize a youngster from an old snapshot are fairly long. Now, the people who actually investigate such cases are getting a more high-tech approach. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, a nonprofit agency, is setting up a nationwide computer network that will allow law-enforcement officials and investigators to easily swap information on its 4,200 active cases. Network traffic will include data and computerized photographs of each child, plus special sketches done by forensic artists that age the images of the children so that authorities will have an idea of how a 3-year-old who disappeared six years ago might look at age 9.
Until now, all the specialized imaging and sketching was done at the National Center's Arlington (Va.) headquarters. With the network, graphic artists around the country will be able to do their own work and share it nationwide. Eventually, the network should reach all 50 states and even some foreign countries.