Governor Crist Recognizes Ninth Annual Florida Missing Children's Day

TALLAHASSEE - Governor Charlie Crist and Lt. Governor Jeff Kottkamp today recognized Florida Missing Children's Day. Governor Crist met with families of missing children, and Lt. Governor Jeff Kottkamp attended the 2007 Florida Missing Children's Day ceremony at the Capitol.

"We join together to remember Florida's missing children and recommit ourselves to doing everything we can to keep our children safe," Governor Crist said. "Our children are our most precious resource, and we must work together each and every day to protect them."

Florida Missing Children's Day falls on the second Monday of September each year. Hundreds of children from surrounding counties participated in events, including fingerprinting, photographing, and learning about abduction prevention. Various law enforcement agencies, victim assistance groups and children's non-profit organizations also attended the event.

"Florida Missing Children's Day is a day to honor and remember the children who have gone missing, and those that may never come home again," said Commissioner Gerald Bailey of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. "When a child is reported missing, every second counts. It is vital that law enforcement, the public, and the media work together to help in a safe and speedy recovery."

The Florida Missing Children's Day ceremony is an opportunity for children, parents, educators and public officials to remember Florida's past and present missing children and discuss Florida's ongoing efforts to protect children. Citizens, canine training teams, and law enforcement officers received awards for exemplary efforts in missing children investigations.

"We hope and pray that Florida's missing children will be found safe and returned home to the families who love them," said Lt. Governor Kottkamp. "We each have important role to play in keeping our children safe."

In 2006, approximately 51,212 children were reported missing to law enforcement agencies throughout Florida. Amber Alerts aided in the rescue of seven children this year. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) encourages all Floridians to sign up on the e-mail advisory system specifically dedicated to quickly provide information on missing and abducted children. Citizens and businesses can sign up to receive Missing Child Alerts and Amber Alerts via personal computer, cell phone and/or text message by visiting

In February, the Florida Outdoor Advertising Association, along with its member advertising companies, began donating space on digital billboards for use during Amber and Missing Child Alerts. Florida Missing Children's Day will be advertised today on digital billboards in 30 locations throughout Florida.

Previous initiatives implemented by the FDLE to help in the recovery of missing children include:

* Statewide implementation of the Amber Alert system which provides for the broadcasting of an abducted child's information via television, radio, e-mail, cell phone, and dynamic highway message signs.

* The establishment of regional Child Abduction Response Teams (CART), comprised of highly trained personnel and specialized equipment. CART provides an immediate on-site response by local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies in an endangered missing child situation.

* A joint initiative between the Missing Children Information Clearinghouse and the Florida Medical Examiner's Commission to identify Florida's unidentified deceased using computer and forensic technological resources.

Special recognition was given today to the following recipients of the 2007 Florida Missing Children Awards:

2007 Commissioner's Award
Sheriff Jeffrey J. Dawsy
Citrus County Sheriff's Office

2007 Trailing Team of the Year
Deputy Emmet Merritt
K-9 Liberty
Charlotte County Sheriff's Office

2007 Statewide Essay Contest Winner
Jiye Park
Castle Creek Elementary School
Orange County, Florida

2007 Citizen of the Year
Sandra Stambaugh
Palm Harbor, Florida

2007 Local Law Enforcement Officer of the Year
Major Constance Shingledecker
Manatee County Sheriff's Office

2007 Law Enforcement Task Force/Team of the Year
Sergeant Andres Varela
Detective Javier Soto
Detective Miguel Espinosa
Officer Benny Millares
Officer Melissa Moon
Miami Dade Police Department

2007 State Law Enforcement Officer of the Year
Sergeant James S. Gaskins
Florida Highway Patrol

2007 School Bus Operator of the Year
Mr. Ryan Stamper
Citrus County School District

John and Reve Walsh Award
Commissioner Nancy Argenziano
Florida Public Service Commission

Evelyn Williams Memorial Award
Dinorah Perry

For more information, or to view photos of missing children, please visit or or contact the FDLE Missing Children Information Clearinghouse at 1-888-FLMISSING (1-888-356-4774).

For more information, contact:

Heather Smith or Kristen Perezluha
FDLE Public Information Office
(850) 410-7001