Attorney General Merrick Garland is shining a spotlight on a crisis that is affecting America’s children.
At the 40th annual National Missing Children’s Day Ceremony, Garland said children and teens under the age of 18 account for almost one-third of the FBI’s missing persons reports.
“As many of you know, National Missing Children’s Day was established 40 years ago in memory of a six-year-old boy named Etan Patz. He vanished while walking to his bus stop in New York City in 1979,” Merrick told attendees Wednesday.
“His memory is a tragic reminder of why we do this work – and of what is at stake,” he added.
Last year, the FBI received more than 359,000 reports of missing children.
In March, the United States Marshals Service launched a first-of-its-kind national missing children operation.
“We Will Find You” was a 10-week operation that resulted in the recovery of 225 children.
“Whether a child has been abducted, or has just wandered away, the terror felt by a parent when their child has disappeared is overwhelming,” Garland shared.
He continued, “I have great respect for the brave, resourceful, and dedicated professionals – like those in this room – who work every day to protect children from harm, reunite missing children with their families, and provide support for the community in the aftermath of a traumatic event.”
“There is no cause more worthy of honor,” he added.
The Department of Justice also honored 12 individuals who worked to find missing children and prosecute child predators.
“Through their resourcefulness, their exceptional savvy, and, most of all, their tenacious commitment to the health and safety of our nation’s young people, these award recipients have saved and protected hundreds of children from abductions, exploitation, and further harm,” said Liz Ryan, an administrator for the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). “We are honored to recognize them for their extraordinary efforts to secure a bright future for our youngest generation.”
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According to the DOJ, the OJJDP is a leading organization that works to protect children.
“On this day, we remember that some 460,000 children go missing from the United States every year – and we take this opportunity to remind ourselves of both the scope of the challenge before us and the depth of our collective commitment to the safety and welfare of America’s youth,” said Amy L. Solomon, Assistant Attorney General of the Office of Justice Programs (OJP).