Division of Criminal Justice Services

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Contact: Janine Kava, Press Office
(518) 457-8828
For immediate release: Thursday, April 24, 2008

Missing Children Reports Down in New York State in 2007
More kids, however, abducted by relatives, acquaintances last year

The total number of missing children cases reported in New York State declined in 2007, but there was an uptick in the number of children who were abducted by family members and those who were reported lost, according to a report issued by the Missing and Exploited Children Clearinghouse at the state’s Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS).

A total of 21,100 children were reported missing last year, compared to 21,613 in 2006. The vast majority of reports – a total of 19,504 – involved runaways, lost children and abductions by family members or acquaintances. Of those 21,100 reports, which involve children 17 years old or younger: 5,839 were reported from New York City; 4,806 were reported from suburban New York City (Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island and Rockland and Westchester counties); and 10,446 were reported Upstate.

Nearly 21,000 of the 21,100 missing child cases were closed in 2007, with 43 percent of those being resolved when the child voluntarily returned home. Law enforcement officials were involved in the return of a child in 23 percent of those closed cases.

“We all teach our children to be wary of strangers. Unfortunately, these statistics show that children are often placed in harm’s way by someone who knows them,” DCJS Commissioner Denise E. O’Donnell said. “Through our Missing and Exploited Children Clearinghouse, we offer a variety of programs designed to help parents talk to their children about personal safety in a way that stresses awareness, empowerment and instilling a sense of caution.”

Last year marked the Clearinghouse’s 20th anniversary. Established in 1987 by Executive Law, 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, schools and civic organizations. For example, when a child goes missing, Clearinghouse staff will:

  • Develop printed posters and provides the family and/or the investigating police agency with as many as they want for distribution.
  • Post information on the DCJS website (www.criminaljustice.ny.gov) and National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (www.ncmec.org) website.
  • Distribute posters electronically to law enforcement agencies based upon the place of disappearance and possible destinations.
  • Provide investigative support to the police in many ways, including searching the Internet for online activity.

Two of the Clearinghouse’s most sought-after programs are its Operation SAFE CHILD and Internet safety presentations.

Operation SAFE CHILD 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 fingerprints of both index fingers. If the parent or guardian wishes, that information is stored in a secure database so that it can be disseminated instantly if a child is abducted or lost.

In 2007, more than 83,500 children were registered through the program. Since the program’s inception in June 2005, more than 200,000 children have been registered through Operation SAFE CHILD.

Last year, Clearinghouse staff gave 59 Internet safety presentations across the state to nearly 4,800 parents, educators, children and teens, a 28 percent increase in the number of presentations that resulted in a 31 percent increase in the number of participants.

“Parents have always known the importance of being vigilant in public, keeping their children close, urging them to be cautious and stay on guard,” Commissioner O’Donnell added. “Since the dawn of the Internet age, parents now need to ensure that their children exercise the same caution while they are online in the safety and security of their own homes.”

And with the ever-growing popularity of video and online games, DCJS in December 2007 unveiled another educational presentation titled “Video Games and Children: Virtual Playground vs. Danger Zone” that provides insight into violent video games. All of the Clearinghouse’s educational presentations can be found on the DCJS website – www.criminaljustice.ny.gov – by clicking the “Internet/Video Game Safety” Link under “Community Resources.”

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) that allows anyone to research the status of an offender.