A Time To Reflect On A National Tragedy: National Missing Children’s Day

News Release  For Immediate Release
May 21, 2008

Everett, Washington – On his way to school in New York City, May 25, 1979, 6-year old Etan Patz disappeared. The subsequent search for this child not only refocused the nation back to the plight of missing children, but to the overall lack of information and resources available to assist in locating and recovering these innocent children.

The date of Etan’s abduction, May 25th, became the catalyst for four significant measures: The Missing Children’s Act of 1982, the first Federal law to address the concern of missing children, gave the FBI’s National Crime Information Center, authorization to enter missing children reports into their data-base. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed May 25 as National Missing Children’s Day. One year later, the Missing Children’s Assistance Act launched the Department of Justice/ Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s Missing and Exploited Children’s Program. And, in 2003, President George W. Bush signed into law the PROTECT ACT/ AMBER Alert Laws, a comprehensive child protection package.

In each of the past 20 years, every president of the United States has continued to proclaim May 25th as National Missing Children’s Day. President George W. Bush said,  “Americans must continue to work together to ensure the safety of our children… I urge all Americans to take an active role in upholding the safety of our communities and in defending the well being of our children.

“I call upon Americans to join me,” the President’s Proclamation continued, “ in commemorating this observance and to remember those young people who are missing. I also call on our citizens to recognize and thank those who work on behalf of missing children and their families. By renewing our commitment to protect our children from harm, we can save lives and prevent untold suffering and grief among the most vulnerable of our society.”

In the nation’s Capital and communities across America, activities are planned to raise public awareness about the tragedy of missing children and the necessity to address this national problem. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, over 800,000 children (more than 2000 per day) are reported missing each year either through family and stranger abductions, runaways, and thrownway incidences.

“National Missing Children’s Day is a reminder to the people of this country not to forget the children who are still missing,” said Michael Gibson, President of OPERATION LOOKOUT® National Center for Missing Youth.

Offering advice on how the public can help, Gibson added, “Get involved — it’s working! Help circulate missing children’s posters. Place a missing kid’s photo banner or link on your personal Website. Teach your children protection safety, which is appropriate for their age. Volunteer a few hours a month for a nonprofit missing child center. When an Amber Alert is issued for a missing child pay close attention to the information provided. These are just a few things that can make the difference. At Operation Lookout we have said for over twenty years – “Every missing child deserves a chance to be found.”

Named after Amber Hagerman, a 9-year-old girl who was abducted and later found murdered in Arlington, Texas, Amber Alerts containing information about the abducted child and the abductor are swiftly dispatched through media outlets, the Internet and television and radio breaking news bulletins, as well as electronic highway signs.

The launching of the AMBER (America’s Missing Broadcast Emergency Response) Alert program has ignited new excitement in the law enforcement communities and child search centers across America. Now active in almost every state, and directly attributed to the swift recovery of more than a hundred children since its 1996 creation, according to the DOJ, the efficacy of the AMBER system is clear.

”The Amber Alert system has been available for sometime on a local basis in several states. It is a significant tool in the search for children who have been abducted by strangers or non-family members. This system will assist Operation Lookout like other available efforts that help locate missing children. And, in fact, the Amber Alert will rival the Internet for getting information about the child and abductor to the people who can best use it: individuals within the local communities and states,” said Gibson.

“Operation Lookout has taken a pro-active role in the AMBER Alert system from its inception by joining with law enforcement and broadcast organizations, and by utilizing high-tech methods of dispatching instant ‘e-lerts’ through the Internet The public is realizing the important role they can play in helping to protect children from criminals and other predators,” Gibson continued.

Founded in 1984, Operation Lookout, an award winning, private 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, has helped more than 14,000 missing children and their families, always without charge and, overall, has an 82 percent resolve rate. The Center assists law enforcement worldwide, and serves as both advocate and liaison with government and private agencies involved in the field of missing children.

For more information about OL, call 425-771-7335 or visit our Website: www.operationlookout.org.

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