SCHUMER RE-INTRODUCES BILL TO CLOSE MAJOR LOOPHOLE IN FED LAW THAT PREVENTS STATE AND LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT FROM AIDING IN MISSING CHILDREN SEARCH EFFORTS – WITH MORE THAN 10K UPSTATE NEW YORK CHILDREN GOING MISSING EACH YEAR, AND MANY CASES STILL UNRESOLVED, SCHUMER URGES CHANGE IN LAW
Certain Local & State Law Enforcement Prevented by Fed Law From Aiding in Search Efforts to Find Missing Upstate NY Children; Current Law Also Does Not Require Prompt Updating of Missing Children Files – Both Greatly Hinder Search for Missing Children, Including Over 1,200 Searches That Were Still Active Throughout Upstate NY At End of Last Year
Schumer Calls on Congressional Colleagues to Act on Bipartisan Plan That Gives All Law Enforcement Greater Access to National Missing Children Files & Also Says That Missing Children Records Should Be Updated With Photos, Medical Records & More, Within 30 Days – Law Enforcement Still Trying To Solve Thousands of Missing Children Cases
In the Capital Region, 2,081 Children Went Missing in 2013; In CNY, 1,286 Children; In WNY, 1,570 Children; In Rochester-Finger Lakes, 1,721 Children; In the Hudson Valley, 2,708 Children; In the North Country, 289 Children; In the S. Tier, 657 Children
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today re-introduced bipartisan legislation to better protect missing and exploited children in the United States. The Bringing Missing Children Home Act improves law enforcement reporting and response procedures in cases of missing children by refining and streamlining how cases of missing children are handled. The bill would eliminate a loophole in federal law that prevents local and state law enforcement officials across Upstate New York from quickly and thoroughly reporting on, updating and responding to missing children cases throughout the state. With 10,312 Upstate New York children reported missing in 2013, and 1,269 cases still active at the end of the year, Schumer’s bill, the Bringing Missing Children Home Act, would make several commonsense changes to existing rules that would enhance all law enforcement’s access to important files and records that are needed in order to locate missing children. Schumer introduced his bill with Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) and urged his colleagues to pass it this Congress.
“The time is now to improve the national missing children system and protect the most vulnerable among us from exploitation,” said Schumer. “Getting more law enforcement officials and missing children experts on the case when our youngest, most innocent citizens go missing will help us prevent more families from having to experience heartbreak and tragedy. I will fight hard to pass this legislation during this Congress.”
Schumer’s bill would also require prompter action from law enforcement officials in providing key identifying information for those files. Currently, missing persons units cannot modify records in the National Crime Information Center to include newly discovered information unless they have been granted permission by the originating law enforcement agency of the crime, or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). Schumer’s legislation would remove this mind-boggling roadblock, which prevents certain law enforcement from being able to aid in the search for the close to 30 children that go missing in Upstate New York each day.
In 2013, approximately 10,312 Upstate New York children were reported missing and 1,269 cases were still active at the end of that year:
- In the Capital Region, 2,081 children were reported missing in 2013 and 180 cases were still active at the end of that year.
- In Central New York, 1,286 children were reported missing in 2013 and 46 cases were still active at the end of that year.
- In Western New York, 1,570 children were reported missing in 2013 and 463 cases were still active at the end of that year.
- In the Rochester-Finger Lakes Region, 1,721 children were reported missing in 2013 and 62 cases were still active at the end of that year.
- In the Southern Tier, 657 children were reported missing in 2013 and 32 cases were still active at the end of that year.
- In the Hudson Valley, 2,708 children were reported missing in 2013 and 474 cases were still active at the end of that year.
- In the North Country, 289 children were reported missing in 2013 and 12 cases were still active at the end of that year.
Schumer noted that missing persons units throughout New York State, in addition to the New York State Attorney General, cannot modify records in the National Crime Information Center to include newly discovered information unless they have been granted permission by the originating agency of the crime, or National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). Therefore, Schumer explained, if a child goes missing in Westchester County, the Monroe County Police Department cannot access or input newly discovered evidence into that child’s file without special permission. Schumer said that the system must change so that more detectives, missing children units and other law enforcement can contribute to and be aware of active missing children cases within New York State and across state lines instead of being bogged down in a web of bureaucratic red tape.
Schumer noted that a second key issue is that law enforcement officials are not required to quickly update missing children files with key, identifying records that will aid in the search for missing kids. There is an expectation currently that photos, medical and dental records be input into these files within two months. Schumer said that this timeframe should be shortened. To address these flaws in the current missing children system, and more, Schumer called on his colleagues to act and urged the passage of the bipartisan Bringing Missing Children Home Act of 2014, which he has sponsored with Senator Rob Portman (R-OH). This legislation passed the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this year. First, the bill allows state missing persons units and state law enforcement to modify missing child entries to include information as it is uncovered through investigation. Under current regulations, missing persons units and state Attorneys General cannot modify records in the National Crime Information Center to include newly discovered information unless they have been granted permission by the Originating Agency Identifier or National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Schumer noted that this permission has to be granted in every single case and can lead to valuable time and information being lost. Second, this legislation requires that law enforcement update the records of missing children within 30 days after the initial report with additional information learned through the investigation, including medical records, dental records, and a photograph, where available. Currently, the requirement is only 60 days.
Third, the act requires law enforcement to coordinate directly with the state and local child welfare systems when a child is reported missing in order to expand the information available about the missing child for the purposes of the investigation. Lastly, legislation will modify current provisions existing under the Missing Children’s Assistance Act, in one instance, by replacing the term “child prostitution” with “child sex trafficking.” Making this change, which is in accordance with federal law, enforces that children abducted and used for sex trafficking are identified as victims instead of criminals.
Domestic child sex trafficking remains a serious problem in the United States. There are an estimated 293,000 American youths at risk of commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking. Research suggests that the majority of trafficked youth have been in and out of the child welfare system and run from care immediately prior to being trafficked or sexually exploited. The strong correlation between children who are missing or abducted and children who are sex trafficked or commercially sexually exploited makes it imperative that law enforcement better coordinate directly with the state and local child welfare systems to consistently report missing children and improve the quality of information available to law enforcement in the investigation.
“This bill will help our nation’s most vulnerable children, who far too often fall prey to trafficking,” Portman stated. “By ensuring that law enforcement and state and local child welfare systems are working together, we can help protect kids who are have otherwise been forgotten or disregarded by a system that was established to keep them safe.”
“The Bringing Missing Children Home Act will enhance the critical information needed for law enforcement to investigate cases of missing and abducted children,” said John Ryan, President and CEO of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. “It also recognizes the problem of missing foster children, a population we know to be vulnerable to the manipulation of sex traffickers. Coordinating with child welfare agencies about these children will help recover them more quickly and may prevent their victimization.”
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