September 10, 2012
Tallahassee, FL--Governor Rick Scott and First Lady Ann Scott joined Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey and hundreds of law enforcement personnel, public officials and citizens today for the 2012 Florida Missing Children’s Day ceremony in Tallahassee. The annual event is an opportunity to remember Florida’s missing children, recognize the state’s efforts in the child protection arena and educate Floridians on child safety and abduction prevention.
“Today, we join together to remember the children who are missing, and recognize the individuals who make it their priority to keep children safe,” Governor Scott said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with those who have experienced the heartbreaking loss of a missing child. As Governor, my commitment is to do everything possible to crack down on those offenders who prey on the most vulnerable and to keep our communities secure.”
To ensure every available resource continues to be leveraged for the protection of Florida’s citizens, Governor Scott signed Executive Order 12-206 to further partnerships across state agencies and with private organizations. Collaboration between police departments and sheriff’s offices, as well as state and federal agencies, has become a standard part of missing person’s investigations. These partnerships ensure activities such as: immediately posting photographs of missing persons in rest stops and toll booths, making tracking dogs available to help with search and rescue, and placing AMBER Alerts on road signs and billboards.
At the event, children from surrounding counties participated in a safety presentation on abduction prevention. During a formal ceremony, Governor Scott and Commissioner Bailey recognized citizens, canine trailing teams and law enforcement officers for their exemplary efforts in missing children investigations.
“We are here today to honor those who have made protecting our most vulnerable citizens a priority,” Commissioner Bailey said. “This day not only honors them, but reminds everyone we will not stop searching until all children return home safely.”
During 2011, approximately 40,000 incidents of missing children were reported to Florida law enforcement agencies. AMBER Alerts have directly aided in the rescue of 56 children, including one this year.
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, Premium Outdoor, Clear Channel Outdoor and CBS Outdoor featured 28 missing children and adults on digital billboards throughout the state.
The following individuals are recipients of the 2012 Florida Missing Children’s Day Awards:
John and Revé Walsh Award – Assistant State Attorney Gregory Schiller - West Palm Beach, Fla.
Assistant State Attorney Gregory Schiller obtained a 25-year prison sentence for a sexual predator who repeatedly violated his probation. During the prosecution, Schiller identified a loophole in the law that required prosecutors to show that the person had not only viewed but downloaded child pornography in order to achieve a conviction. Due to the efforts of Schiller, Governor Scott and Florida legislators, today it is a felony to intentionally view child pornography online.
Commissioner’s Award – Officer Frank Fanelli – Palm Beach County School Board Police
Officer Fanelli works to develop training videos that educate other law enforcement officers. Over the past year, his skills have been put to use by the FDLE Missing Endangered Persons Information Clearinghouse on videos used to publicize and raise funds for Florida Missing Children’s Day as well as videos that will be used to train law enforcement on Florida’s Silver Alert.
Evelyn Williams Memorial Award – Sheila Clifton DeLongis
In 2009, DeLongis helped start Camp Maddie, a weekend camp for children and teens who have suffered a loss due to homicide. The camp was named for DeLongis’s daughter, Maddie Clifton, who was 8 years old when she was tragically murdered.
Essay Contest Winner – Kaylee Bragg- Davie, Fla.
Kaylee won top honors in this year’s statewide essay contest in which fifth graders were asked to write an essay titled “Internet Safety Rules are Great Safety Tools.”
Department of Justice Poster Contest Recognition – Ashley McGough – Orange Park, Fla.
Ashley, a sixth grader from Clay County, was recognized as the statewide winner in the national poster contest. Her drawing artfully depicted the need for everyone to work together to bring missing children home safely.
Local Law Enforcement Officer of the Year – Detective Vernon “Allan” Richardson – Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office
Detective Richardson was recognized for his consistent efforts and dedication to locate missing children. Detective Richardson worked 360 missing person cases over 12 months with a 98 percent clearance rate. He helped develop an incident command protocol for missing, abducted and endangered persons that is operational in Duval County.
Law Enforcement Task Force/Team of the Year – Florida Department of Law Enforcement Missing Endangered Persons Information Clearinghouse
FDLE MEPIC was instrumental in the safe recovery of a 2-week-old infant who had been abducted from West Palm Beach by a woman who befriended the mother online. MEPIC worked with a social networking site to identify the suspect and released an AMBER Alert. A citizen saw the AMBER Alert and provided information that led to the safe recovery of the child.
State/Federal Law Enforcement Officer of the Year – Special Agent Yesenia Leon-Baron – Florida Department of Law Enforcement
Special Agent Leon-Baron was honored for her work as the coordinator of the Central Florida/Orlando Child Abduction Response Team (CART). Special Agent Leon-Baron served as team leader for six call-outs, including the successful recovery of an 11-year-old autistic girl who had been lost for five days in Winter Park in 2010. Special Agent Leon-Baron is working to develop a Trafficking Response Team that will help identify and rescue victims of sex trafficking.
The Jimmy Ryce Trailing Team of the Year – Sergeant Ronald Mitchell and K-9 Gunny – Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office
Sgt. Mitchell and K-9 Gunny helped track a 4-year-old boy who went missing in a wooded area just before dark. K-9 Gunny followed a track that totaled nearly a mile before the child was located. Sgt. Mitchell carried the child on his back through the woods to safely reunite him with his mother.
Citizen of the Year – Lisa Delong– West Palm Beach, Fla.
Ms. Delong noticed odd behavior in a boarder who introduced himself as the single father of a 1-year-old girl. Suspicions raised, Ms. Delong researched the father’s story and identified the man and his daughter from a poster on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children website. With the man still in the house, Ms. Delong loaded the girl into a car and contacted 911 on her way to the police station. Due to these efforts, the child was reunited with her mother.
School Bus Operator of the Year – Tonia Allen - Escambia County School District
Allen’s alertness helped to protect a young child who wandered away from home and onto a highway.
FDLE invites the public to sign up to receive Missing Child Alerts 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.