WASHINGTON – Deputy Attorney General James Cole spoke at the annual National Missing Children’s Day ceremony today at the Justice Department’s Great Hall, honoring missing children, their families, child advocates and others who protect the safety of children.
“Protecting our children is one of the department’s highest priorities and we will continue to work with other federal agencies and organizations to ensure timely, accurate and thorough responses to missing and exploited children,” said Deputy Attorney General Cole. “Through efforts like the Defending Childhood initiative and the Federal Agency Task Force on Missing and Exploited Children, we will continue our efforts to prevent child abductions and exploitation as well as ensure that those who are responsible for such crimes are punished.”
Protecting children is a priority of Attorney General Eric Holder, who launched Defending Childhood in 2010 to address the issue of children exposed to violence. The department also supports the work of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children; the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Program, a national network of 61 coordinated task forces addressing online child exploitation; and the AMBER Alert Program, instrumental in the recovery of 540 abducted children since its creation in 1996.
The Department announced the release of two Spanish translations of publications: Cuando su Niño desaparece: Una guía para la supervivencia de la familia (When Your Child Is Missing: A Family Survival Guide, 4th edition), providing advice about what to do when your child is missing, and how best to assist law enforcement in the search, and El Delito del Secuestro Familiar: La perspectiva de hijos y padres (The Crime of Family Abduction: A Child’s and Parent’s Perspective), offering insights into how a child abduction by a family member affects the child and the family.
The ceremony included remarks by Jeff Slowikowski, Acting Administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, followed by presentations of awards in the following categories:
Attorney General’s Special Commendation Award: Recognizes extraordinary efforts of an Internet Crime Against Children (ICAC) task force, an ICAC affiliate agency, or an individual assigned to an ICAC task force or affiliate agency for making significant investigative or program contributions to the ICAC task force program.
Recipients: Detective Gary Jackson, Miami Police Department; Detective Felix Mendigutia, Hialeah, Fla., Police Department; Special Agent Tim Aucoin, U.S. Secret Service, Miami; and Assistant U.S. Attorney Maria Medetis, Southern District of Florida, who worked to identify and locate a sexual predator and four child victims he was sexually abusing. The defendant received a 130-year prison sentence.
Missing Children’s Law Enforcement Award: Recognizes the extraordinary efforts of a law enforcement officer who made a significant investigative or program contribution to the safety of children.
Recipient: Sheriff David Barber, Knox County, Ohio, Sheriff’s Office, coordinated a high-profile investigation including federal, state, and local law enforcement and led to the safe recovery of an abducted 13-year-old girl.
Missing Children’s Citizen Award: Honors the extraordinary efforts of private citizens for their unselfish acts to safely recover missing or abducted children.
Recipient: Heather Picklesimer, Postmaster Relief, U.S. Postal Service, Ducktown, Tenn., whose work with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service led to the successful recovery of a missing infant.
Missing Children’s Child Protection Award: Honorsthe extraordinary efforts of a law enforcement officer who made a significant investigative or program contribution to protecting children from abuse or victimization.
Recipient: Detective Dana Ward, York, Pa., City Police Department, who served as a key drafter of protocols for the York County Child Abduction Response Team (CART). This team received full certification, becoming the first CART certified in Pennsylvania, and only the 12th such certified team in the United States. Ward was a primary investigator in a 2010 case in which two York parents were arrested and charged with five counts of child endangerment after they hid their five children in a squalid row house with no heat, electricity or running water.
Missing Children’s Art Contest Award:
Recipient : Julianna Hinton, a fifth grader at Oak Grove Upper Elementary , Hattiesburg, Miss., was selected as the 2011 Missing Children’s Art Contest winner for her depiction of a bald eagle with wings outstretched to protect our country’s missing children, clutching an AMBER Alert banner.
President Ronald Reagan proclaimed May 25, 1983, the first National Missing Children’s Day to remember 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 of children still missing.
OJP, headed by Assistant Attorney General Laurie O. Robinson, provides federal leadership in developing the nation’s capacity to prevent and control crime, administer justice, and assist victims. OJP has seven components: the Bureau of Justice Assistance; the Bureau of Justice Statistics; the National Institute of Justice; the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; the Office for Victims of Crime; the Community Capacity Development Office, and the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking. More information about OJP is at www.ojp.gov .