WASHINGTON – Attorney General Eric Holder commemorated National Missing Children’s Day in an awards ceremony recognizing the exemplary efforts of law enforcement and citizens nationwide in recovering missing children and combating child exploitation. Held at the Department of Justice’s Great Hall, the event also honored missing children and their families, child advocates and others who assist in protecting children.
“The extraordinary efforts of the men and women we recognize today have awakened family after family from the nightmare of having a missing child, and, when there can be no solace, helped them to recover from unthinkable loss,” said Attorney General Holder. “There is no more important priority that we, as stewards of our nation’s justice system and protectors of our communities, have than bringing our kids home.”
The protection of children is a personal priority of Attorney General Eric Holder. Today he announced a grant award of more than $30 million for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. And on March 31, the department announced the availability of more than $5 million to support the Attorney General’s initiative on children exposed to violence. These funds will sponsor planning, outreach, research and best practices for reducing children’s exposure to violence. Additionally, the department supports the ongoing work of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Programs, a national network of 61 coordinated task forces addressing online child exploitation, and the AMBER Alert Program, which has assisted in the recovery of 502 abducted children.
The department released two publications at today’s event: The Crime of Family Abduction: A Child’s and Parent’s Perspective, which offers insights into how an abduction of a child by a family member affects the child and the family, and the fourth edition of When Your Child Is Missing: A Family Survival Guide, which provides advice about what to do when your child is missing and how best to assist law enforcement in the search.
In addition to the remarks by the Attorney General, the ceremony included remarks by Laurie O. Robinson, Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs (OJP), followed by presentations of awards in the following categories:
Attorney General’s Special Commendation Award: Recognizes the extraordinary efforts of an Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC), an ICAC affiliate agency or an individual assigned to an ICAC Task Force or affiliate agency for making a significant investigative or program contribution to the ICAC Task Force.
- Recipient: Assistant District Attorney Kelly Miller with the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office, an affiliate to the North Carolina ICAC, for her investigative work which led to the prosecution of an adult offender for child sexual abuse. The defendant was sentenced to 115 to 142.5 years in prison. Her outstanding coordination of the case and extraordinary care and attention to the victim were highlighted.
Missing Children’s Law Enforcement Award: Recognizes the extraordinary efforts of a law enforcement officer who has made a significant investigative or program contribution to the safety of a child.
- Recipient: Special Agent Michael J. Conrad from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s office in Phoenix, who assisted in the recovery of an abducted 2-year-old child.
Missing Children’s Citizen Award: Honors the extraordinary efforts of private citizens for their unselfish acts to safely recover missing or abducted children.
- Recipients: Postmaster James Pantoja, Mail Carrier Tony Palma, and Distributor Associate Denultra Camp from the Tombstone, Ariz., Postal Facility who, upon the receipt of a missing child poster, distributed the information and used it during daily operations to contribute to the safe recovery of a 9-year-old child.
Missing Children’s Child Protection Award: Honors the extraordinary efforts of a law enforcement officer who has made a significant investigative or program contribution to protecting children from abuse or victimization.
- Recipient: Special Agents Catherine Koontz and James T. Lewis of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s office in Miami, who investigated and coordinated law enforcement operations focused on an Internet case involving thousands of images of child pornography that led to an investigation of sexual abuse of children.
Missing Children’s Day Art Contest:
- Billy Joe Reyes Collado, a fifth grader from Antonio Pagán Public School in Lajas, Puerto Rico, was selected as the 2010 National Missing Children’s Day Art Contest winner for his depiction of a planet in the shape of a heart being held by two hands that can guide children back home.
In 1983, President Ronald W. 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 children who are still missing.