After he was found sitting in the backseat of one of President Barack Obama's armored limousines Wednesday, 9-year-old Reese Ortenberg got fingerprinted and had his mug shot taken by Secret Service agents.
The fourth-grader at Old Bethpage Elementary School on Round Swamp Road was one of 250 students taking part in the U.S. Secret Service's "Operation Safe Kids."
One of the service's lesser-known tasks is to assist in preventing child abduction, said Michael Seremetis, the new head of the Secret Service office on Long Island.
Under the program, agents go to schools and take pictures and fingerprints of students, with the permission of parents. The picture and fingerprint record are given to the parents in case the child is missing or suspected of being abducted as an aid to law enforcement agencies involved in a search, Seremetis said.
Seremetis stressed that the Secret Service does not keep a copy of either the picture or the fingerprints - the program is not part of some centralized federal data collection system.
So far agents around the country have passed on to parents pictures and fingerprints of 80,000 children, he said.
In addition to getting the photograph and fingerprint, the program also included a 45-minute lecture by agents on tips to avoid abduction and Internet safety. It's also a chance for students to sit in an armored Secret Service limousine.
The limousine used at Old Bethpage is one of several the service has in the metropolitan area for dignitary protection, Seremetis said.
"It was amazing," Reese said of his brief use of the presidential limousine, holding other souvenirs of his day with the Secret Service, including a service lapel pin and a mouse pad with rules for online safety.
As for the fingerprints and pictures, Reese said, "It's a smart idea in case we get lost."
Seremetis said schools interested in taking part in the program, for which there is no charge, should call the Secret Service office on Long Island at 631-293-4028.