News


Governor Scott and FDLE host Florida Missing Children's Day

9/14/2015
 
 
NEWS RELEASE
Governor Scott and FDLE host Florida Missing Children’s Day 
Jacksonville attorney awarded Evelyn Williams Memorial Award
 
For Immediate Release
September 14, 2015
 
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Governor Rick Scott and First Lady Ann Scott joined Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen and hundreds of law enforcement personnel, public officials and citizens today for the 2015 Florida Missing Children’s Day ceremony in Tallahassee. The annual event is held to remember Florida’s missing children, recognize the state’s efforts in child protection and educate Floridians on child safety and abduction prevention.
 
Governor Rick Scott said, “Our prayers are with each of the parents and loved ones of missing children for the heartache that they have experienced. Florida remains a national leader in combating these terrible crimes, and we will continue to work together to shine a light on any crime that places the life of a child at risk.”
 
First Lady Ann Scott said, “As a mother and grandmother, I am heartbroken to see families who have been devastated by the disappearance of a child. Our law enforcement officers risk their lives every day to keep our communities safe, and we are thankful for their commitment to protect Florida’s most vulnerable.”
 
In 2014, more than 35,000 incidents of missing children were reported to Florida law enforcement agencies and six AMBER Alerts were issued statewide.  Since its inception, 192 AMBER Alerts have been issued, including two so far this year.   AMBER Alerts have directly aided in the rescue of 62 children.
 
FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen said, “We will never forget about these children and their families.  We will continue to search and investigate, regardless of how long it’s been, to bring missing children home and provide answers for their families.” 
 
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said, “Our hearts go out to missing children and their families as we pray for the safe return of all of those taken from their loved ones. We must do everything we can to support law enforcement in their efforts to bring these children home and capture the criminals who prey on them.”
 
Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater said, “We must never stop advocating for the safe return of each and every child who has been taken from their family, and my heart goes out to every parent who has suffered from such a tragedy.  It is my hope that this day shall serve as an opportunity to speak with our children about the importance of always remaining aware of their surroundings, and with the ever-growing use of social media and the Internet, developing safe practices when going online.”
 
Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam said, “Today is a time for our state to pause and remember Florida's missing children, as well as the families and communities impacted by loss. Florida Missing Children’s Day is also a time for state leaders, law enforcement and the community to commit to making Florida safer for our next generation and to doing all we can to prevent such tragedies.”
 
At the event, children participated in a safety presentation on abduction prevention.  During a formal ceremony, Governor Scott and Commissioner Swearingen recognized citizens, canine trailing teams and law enforcement officers for their exemplary efforts in missing children investigations.
 
The following individuals are recipients of the 2015 Florida Missing Children’s Day Awards:
 
John and RevĂ© Walsh Award – Mr. Phil Keith, retired Knoxville, TN Police Chief and former Director of the AMBER Alert Training and Technical Assistance Program
During his career, Mr. Keith provided national leadership, coordination, and resources to prevent and respond to endangered missing, abducted and exploited children.  Under his guidance, Florida’s law enforcement community has benefited from a variety of training and technical assistance. 
 
Commissioner’s Award – Florida Sheriffs Association, Florida Police Chiefs Association, and Florida Association of School Resource Officers
These associations and their members partnered with FDLE to successfully implement the AMBER, Missing Child Alert and Silver Alert Programs and partner each year in the coordination of the Florida Missing Children’s Day ceremony.
 
Evelyn Williams Memorial Award – Ms. Crystal Freed, Freed Law Firm, P.A., Jacksonville
Ms. Freed facilitated human trafficking training for all state attorneys, U.S. attorneys, federal judges, and agents from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. She was instrumental in the creation of the Human Trafficking Pro Bono Working Group. 
 
Essay Contest Winner – Brayden Hill , Florida Virtual School Connections Academy
Brayden won top honors in this year’s statewide essay contest where fifth graders were asked to write an essay titled “This is how I stay safe all day.”
 
Department of Justice Poster Contest Recognition – Camille Crosthwait, St. Petersburg Christian School
Camille was recognized as the statewide winner in the national poster contest. The theme was, “Bring Our Missing Children Home.”
 
Local Law Enforcement Officer of the Year – Deputy Sheriff Daniel Delia, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office 
On May 11, 2014, Deputy Delia responded to the Olympia Community Clubhouse in Wellington regarding a missing 17-year-old girl. During the investigation, Deputy Delia learned the child had been in contact online with an adult male. Deputy Delia canvassed the nearest Greyhound Bus station and discovered the child purchased a Greyhound bus ticket.  The next scheduled bus stop was in Jacksonville.  Working with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, Deputy Delia was able to successfully recover the child before she left Florida.
 
State Law Enforcement Officer of the Year – Special Agent Jose Ramirez, FDLE Orlando
Special Agent Jose Ramirez was assigned to implement an investigative strategy in conjunction with Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s initiative to combat and prosecute human trafficking. He developed a program to educate law enforcement and prosecutors about this crime and provided training on how to conduct successful criminal investigations.  In one of the major investigations that Agent Ramirez conducted this past year, he arrested a regional drug trafficker who had transitioned into human/sex trafficking as a means to further his criminal enterprise. This case was the first successful prosecution utilizing Florida’s newly enacted Human Trafficking Statute. 
 
Law Enforcement Task Force/Team of the Year – Missing Persons Squad- Miami Dade Police Department
In February of 2015, the Special Victims Bureau was contacted regarding a missing and endangered 14-year-old female who said she was being held against her will by two adult males. Thanks to the investigative efforts of the Miami Dade detectives, the child was located at a residence in Miami Beach.  The girl was rescued and transported to a hospital. The two male suspects were arrested.
 
The Jimmy Ryce Trailing Team of the Year – Brevard County Sheriff’s Office Jail Complex Corrections Deputy Patrick Arquette and K-9’s Earle and Cletus.
On January 26, 2015, Corrections Deputy Arquette and his K9 partners were called to locate a missing 9 year old autistic boy.  After hours of searching, a helicopter spotted the boy deep in the woods. Using that information, Deputy Arquette and his K9’s were able to locate the boy and carry him to safety.
 
Combatting Human Trafficking Award - Sergeant Jarritt Negri, Seminole County Sheriff’s Office
Sergeant Jarritt Negri of the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office investigates missing and endangered juveniles. He has rescued runaways that have been trafficked or lured into the commercial sex trade industry, including one this year. Sergeant Negri should not only be commended for his police work but also for his compassion and understanding of complex issues faced by human trafficking victims.
 
School Bus Operator of the Year - Gwendolyn Brinson and Kathy Ritter, Broward County Schools
On April 30, 2015, School Bus Operator Gwendolyn Brinson and School Bus Attendant Kathy Ritter noticed a child talking to an adult male suspect. Because the child normally walked home alone, Ms. Brinson and Ms. Rutter sensed danger and stopped the bus.  They told the child to run home and tell her parents.   Witnesses obtained the vehicle tag number and the suspect was arrested for lewd and lascivious exhibition. He had been involved in a similar incident involving another young child.
 
Citizen of the Year – Angela Grillo, Cooper City                            
Ms. Angela Grillo put herself in harm’s way when she attempted to stop an abduction.   On Dec. 3, 2014, after seeing a suspect forcing a female into his vehicle, Ms. Grillo ran to help the victim and attempted to pull her out of the car.  Unfortunately, Ms. Grillo was unsuccessful and the suspect sped off with the victim. She called 911 and followed the suspect’s vehicle until Broward County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrived, arresting the suspect and rescuing the victim.
 
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 Advertising, Clear Channel Outdoor and Outfront Media (formerly CBS Outdoor) featured 28 missing children and adults on digital billboards throughout the state.
 
FDLE invites the public to sign up to receive Missing Child and AMBER Alerts via email or text message by visiting www.missingchildrenalert.com. To view photos of missing children, visit www.fdle.state.fl.us.  For more information about the Florida Missing Children’s Day Foundation, visit www.fmcdf.org.
 
For Further Information Contact:
Gretl Plessinger, Molly Best or Steve Arthur
FDLE Office of Public Information
(850) 410-7001