WASHINGTON -- Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey commemorated National Missing Children’s Day in a ceremony today that honored law enforcement officers and citizens from across the country for their commitment to recovering missing children and combating child exploitation.
This year’s ceremony stressed the Department’s efforts to bring missing children home safely and highlighted the progress made through initiatives that the Department, its components and state and local partners, have developed and implemented to protect children, such as Project Safe Childhood (PSC), which marks its second anniversary this spring.
"Our children are our nation's most valuable treasure. It is therefore an honor to acknowledge those who work to make childhood the safe and hopeful time it should be," said Attorney General Mukasey. "Today's honorees set the bar high and inspire others in the fight to defend and protect innocent children."
At the ceremony, Attorney General Mukasey recognized the following awardees:
· Two detectives, Justin Spence, Florida Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, and Sgt. Jay Poupard, Michigan Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, each received the Attorney General’s Special Commendation Award for their prompt actions and information sharing, which saved the life of an 8-year-old girl. Their actions also prevented the further distribution of pornographic images.
· Lt. Jessica Farnsworth from the Utah Attorney General’s Office of Investigations received the AMBER Alert (America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response) Law Enforcement Award for her efforts to create the Utah Attorney General’s Child Abduction Response Team, which she successfully recruited dedicated federal, state and local investigators, along with highly skilled support staff.
· Two radiological technologists, Lisa Ahlbrandt and Sue Midgett, from Norfolk, Va., were presented the AMBER Alert Citizen Award for their intuitive actions and fortitude in safely recovering an abducted infant who was the subject of an AMBER Alert.
· Trooper 1st Class Becky North, a Maryland State Police Officer, received the Child Protection Award for her tenacity in investigating a child abuse case, in which a sex offender received a 99-year prison sentence.
· Doyoun Park, a fifth grader from Quail Hollow Elementary School in Sandy, Utah, was selected as winner of the 2008 National Missing Children’s Day Poster Contest.
Awardees were also recognized for their outstanding contributions to the AMBER Alert program. AMBER Alerts have saved the lives of more than 397 children since the program began in 1996. In 2001, only four states had statewide AMBER Alert plans. In 2005, the Department met its goal of having statewide AMBER Alert plans in all 50 states. The Department is now working with Canada and Mexico to have plans in place in the event children are abducted across our northern or southern borders. The Department is also expanding the AMBER Alert program into Indian Country.
During today's ceremony, the Department's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) announced the release of a new publication, You’re Not Alone: The Journey from Abduction to Empowerment. Written with the assistance of young adults who were abducted as children, the publication is designed to help other survivors of abduction recover from their trauma and gain a sense of empowerment over the experience. The document joins two other OJJDP publications that support those affected by abduction: When Your Child Is Missing: A Family Survival Guide, which provides helpful advice and information from other parents of missing or abducted children, and What About Me? Coping with the Abduction of a Brother or Sister, which was written by siblings of missing or abducted children and helps brothers and sisters who are left behind cope in the aftermath of an abduction.
This spring marks the second anniversary of the Department’s PSC initiative, which was implemented in 2006 to bring together federal, state and local investigators and prosecutors to combat online child exploitation crimes.
In 2007, PSC led to a 14 percent increase in FBI child sexual exploitation investigations over the previous year and a 28 percent increase in child sexual exploitation cases filed by federal prosecutors. In addition, the FBI opened a total of 2,443 new “innocent images” (child pornography) investigations, a 14 percent increase over FY 2006. ICAC task forces reported more than 2,400 arrests for computer-facilitated child sexual exploitation for FY 2007.
Twenty-five years ago, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed May 25 as National Missing Children’s Day in memory of Etan Patz, a 6-year-old boy who disappeared from a New York City street corner on that day in 1979. Missing Children’s Day honors his memory and the memory of those children who are still missing, celebrates the stories of recovery and pays tribute to the exemplary efforts of agencies, organizations and individuals engaged in protecting children.