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Governor Crist and FDLE Host Annual Florida Missing Children’s Day Ceremony

 

TALLAHASSEE – Governor Charlie Crist joined Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) Commissioner Gerald Bailey and hundreds of children, parents, educators, law enforcement personnel and public officials for the 2010 Florida Missing Children’s Day ceremony.  Held between the old and new capitol buildings, the annual event is an opportunity to remember Florida’s past and present missing children as well as recognize the state’s efforts in the child protection arena.

“Today’s ceremony is an important time to send prayers and support to the families of Florida’s missing children,” said Governor Charlie Crist.  “We must remain vigilant in our efforts to ensure the safety of our young people, and work together to provide law enforcement and volunteers the necessary resources and tools needed to bring our children home safely.”

At Florida Missing Children’s Day, school children from surrounding counties participated in activities including fingerprinting and a safety presentation on abduction prevention. Various law enforcement agencies, victim assistance groups and children’s non-profit organizations were also on hand with safety displays. The ceremony also recognized citizens, canine trailing teams, and law enforcement officers for their exemplary efforts in missing children investigations.

“This year’s award winners worked both behind the scenes and on the front lines,” Commissioner Bailey said.  “They are educators, policy makers, law enforcement officers or everyday Floridians. These men and women are making a difference in the lives of children across our state.”

The following individuals were recipients of the 2010 Florida Missing Children Awards:

John and Revé Walsh Award: Representative Sandy Adams, Senator J. Alex Villalobos, Senator Charles Dean, Senator Victor Crist, Former Senator Nancy Argenziano, Former Senator Locke Burt, and Clerk of Court (Former Senator) Howard Forman, for their work in helping Florida to become the third state to have substantially implemented the Adam Walsh Act.

Commissioner’s Award: Brad Dennis, Director of Search Operations for KlaasKIDS Foundation’s National Search Center for Missing Children who coordinated a multi-agency effort to combat child sex trafficking which led to the discovery of six missing children.

Evelyn Williams Memorial Award: Vero Beach City Manager Jim Gabbard, the former Vero Beach Police Chief was recognized for his many contributions to local and state child safety initiatives and for his service as a long-time member of FDLE’s Missing Endangered Persons Information Clearinghouse Advisory Board.

Essay Contest Winner: Nick Hamilton of Saint Michael Lutheran School in Fort Myers.  Nick’s essay focused on safety tips young people can use and share when they are away from their parents.

Department of Justice Poster Contest Recognition: Thomas DeLeon of Old Kings Elementary School in Flagler Beach.  Thomas’ drawing artfully shows the use of a variety of investigative tools in the effort to bring missing children home safely.

Local Law Enforcement Officer of the Year: Sgt. Larry Folsom of the Leon County Sherriff’s Office was recognized for his efforts in the arrest of Texas man who kidnapped his son in the middle of the night.  An Amber Alert was issued and Sgt. Folsom located the suspect on I-10 and arrested him without incident. 

Law Enforcement Task Force/Team of the Year: 14th Judicial Circuit Child Abduction Response Team (CART).  This multi-agency team was instrumental in the safe recovery of kidnapped 7-month-old child from Washington County.

State/Federal Law Enforcement Officer of the Year:  Special Agent Gregory Christopher, FBI Tampa.  Special Agent Christopher was honored for his work in the rescue of 22 children from commercial sexual exploitation and his dedication to their well being after being found. 

The Jimmy Ryce Trailing Team of the Year: Pat Thomas Law Enforcement Academy.  The Academy was recognized for their work and dedication in the training bloodhounds for law enforcement agencies to be used in the search and rescue of missing persons.

Citizen of the Year: Mr. Miguel Flores of Homestead, Fla. was honored for his quick and decisive actions in stopping an in-progress kidnapping of a child from his mother.

School Bus Operator of the Year: Kathleen Picard of Citrus County School District. Picard’s alertness while at work led to the arrest of a man who had been inappropriate with two children.    

During 2009, approximately 41,154 incidents of missing children were reported missing to law enforcement agencies throughout Florida.  Amber Alerts have aided in the rescue of 52 children, including one this year to date.   In 2008, Governor Crist signed the Jennifer Kesse and Tiffany Sessions Missing Persons Act which expanded the authority of FDLE’s Missing Endangered Persons Information Clearinghouse (MEPIC) to provide assistance on investigations involving missing adults younger than 26 and missing adults age 26 and older who are suspected by law enforcement to be in danger.  Since then, MEPIC has provided assistance in more than 249 missing adult investigations.

This past weekend, advertisers with the Florida Outdoor Advertising Association, and its member advertising companies, donated billboard space as part of an ongoing effort to feature missing children and adults. Lamar, Clear Channel Outdoor and CBS outdoor featured 25 missing children and adults on their digital billboards throughout the state.

FDLE continues to invite the public to sign up to receive e-mail alerts containing information on missing and abducted children. Citizens and businesses can sign up to receive Missing Child Alerts and Amber Alerts via e-mail or text message by visiting www.missingchildrenalert.com.

For more information, or to view photos of missing children, please visit www.fdle.state.fl.us or contact the FDLE Missing Endangered Persons Clearinghouse at 1-888-FL MISSING (1-888-356-4774).

For Further Information Contact:
Heather Smith, Kristen Chernosky or Mike Morrison
FDLE Office of Public Information