Division of Criminal Justice Services

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Contact: Janine Kava, Press Office
New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services
(518) 457-8828 or (518) 275-5508 – cell
For immediate release: Friday, May 22, 2009

Governor Paterson proclaims Monday, May 25 as Missing Children’s Day in New York State
Missing children’s cases on the decline statewide

Governor David A. Paterson has proclaimed Monday, May 25 as Missing Children’s Day in New York State to recognize the strides that have been made to increase public awareness about the plight of missing children and their families, and the role that the state’s Missing and Exploited Children Clearinghouse has played in enhancing child safety throughout the state.

Last year, the state’s Missing and Exploited Children Clearinghouse (MECC) received 20,414 reports of missing children, 3 percent fewer than in 2007. The total number of Missing Children reports has dropped in the state every year since 2006.

As in previous years, the vast majority of missing children cases in 2008 – a total of 18,848 – involve runaways. Abduction cases accounted for approximately 1 percent of the total reports, and abductions by family members comprise the most frequent form of abduction, according to the 2008 MECC annual report.

“It is vital to maintain a heightened level of public awareness about the problem of missing children and to make effective and efficient communication resources available when a child does go missing, as long term information-sharing and networking are critically important,” Governor Paterson’s proclamation reads, in part.

Established in 1987 and housed at the state’s Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), the Clearinghouse provides investigative support services and training for law enforcement, assistance to family members of missing children and free community education programs for parents, educators and community organizations. 

“A missing child is every parent’s worst nightmare, said Denise E. O’Donnell, deputy secretary for public safety. “Our Missing and Exploited Children Clearinghouse at the Division of Criminal Justice Services is committed to preventing that nightmare from occurring in the first place, and to bringing children home safely when they do go missing. We urge parents to be vigilant and to use resources such as the Sex Offender Registry to safeguard their children. I applaud Governor Paterson for issuing this proclamation, which I believe will help raise public awareness.”
In 2008, the state issued four AMBER alerts and six Missing Child/College Student Alerts. Nine of those cases resulted in the children being returned safely to their parent(s) or guardian, while one remains an active missing child case. A total of 20,283 missing children cases were closed in 2008, with 31 percent of them being resolved when the child voluntarily returned home.

A county-by-county breakdown of missing children reports is contained in the 2008 MECC annual report, which is available on the DCJS website; visit www.criminaljustice.ny.gov and click on the “Missing Children” link in the horizontal menu near the top of the page to access the report.

Clearinghouse staff members also made 100 Internet safety presentations across the state to more than 12,000 parents, educators, children and teens last year, more than double the number of participants in 2007.

National Missing Children’s Day has been marked annually since 1983 on May 25. Four years earlier on that date, 6-year-old Etan Patz disappeared from a New York City street on his way to school. Etan’s case was one of the first to receive national attention, and coupled with the abduction in 1981 of 6-year-old Adam Walsh from a Hollywood, Fla., shopping mall, highlighted the fact that there was no coordinated effort between federal, state and local law enforcement to investigate missing children cases or central resource to help searching families.

Since that time, New York and the nation have made great strides to improve law enforcement’s response to missing children’s cases, enhance support systems for parents and keep the issue of missing and exploited children in the forefront of the country’s – and state’s – collective consciousness.

Time is the greatest enemy if a child goes missing. Having up-to-date photographs and detailed information about a child can greatly assist law enforcement officials as they respond to a child's disappearance.

In June 2005, DCJS introduced Operation SAFE CHILD, which provides parents or legal guardians with a free card that contains their child’s vital information, including date of birth, gender, height, weight and eye color, along with a photograph and fingerprint images of both index fingers. If a parent or guardian wishes, that information is stored in a secure database at DCJS so that it can be disseminated instantly if a child is abducted or lost.

In partnership with 64 law enforcement agencies, DCJS has registered approximately 297,000 children with Operation SAFE CHILD since its inception. Nearly 93 percent of parents or guardians have requested that information be stored in the secure database. For more information about Operation SAFE CHILD, call 1-800-FINDKID or visit www.operationsafechild.org.
The New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services is a multi-function criminal justice support agency with a variety of responsibilities, including collection and analysis of statewide crime data; operation of the DNA databank and criminal fingerprint files; administration of federal and state criminal justice funds; support of criminal justice-related agencies across the state; and administration of the state’s Sex Offender Registry and a toll-free telephone number (1-800-262-3257) and website (www.criminaljustice.ny.gov) that allows anyone to research the status of an offender.