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Schumer: Major Loophole in Federal Law Prevents Local & State Law Enforcement From Aiding in Search Efforts

Written by Long Island News & PR  |  29. September 2014

Washington, DC - September 29, 2014 - With over 1,800 Long Island children reported missing in 2013, and 230 cases still active, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer said that Congress must act quickly to pass critical bipartisan legislation that will enhance all law enforcement’s access to important files and records that are needed in order to locate missing children, and will require prompter action from law enforcement officials in providing key identifying information about those missing children. Schumer’s bill, the Bringing Missing Children Home Act, makes several commonsense changes to existing rules, which currently prevent local and state law enforcement officials, like those in Nassau and Suffolk County, from quickly and thoroughly reporting on, updating and responding to missing children cases from throughout New York State.
 
Currently, missing persons units like those on Long Island and state Attorney Generals 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). Schumer’s legislation removes this mind-boggling roadblock, which prevents certain law enforcement from being able to aid in the search for the thousands of missing children on Long Island and in New York State. Also, the bill says law enforcement should update the records of missing children within thirty days of the initial report instead of sixty, with information such as photographs, medical records and dental records. Additionally, the legislation requires law enforcement to coordinate directly with state and local child welfare systems when a child is reported missing and allows state law enforcement to modify missing child entries to include information as it’s uncovered through investigation.
 
Schumer was joined by Nassau County law enforcement officials and detectives that work on missing children cases, and will display photos of currently missing children from Long Island.
 
“With hundreds and even thousands of children reported missing from Long Island communities each year, the time is now to improve the current national missing children system, its accuracy and functionality and the availability of critical information to all levels of law enforcement. As the current system stands, the federal government is tying one hand behind the backs of the hard-working and highly-skilled law enforcement and missing children units that dedicate their lives to bringing home our children,” said Schumer.
 
Schumer continued, “Just last week, Etan Patz’s murderer confessed to the tragic, cold-blooded killing of this innocent young child; and this case is credited with bringing greater attention to missing children, particularly the use of children’s photos in those cases. With Etan Patz’s case, and thousands of other New York children that have gone missing in mind, it is the time to pass this legislation which will get more of our law enforcement officials and missing children experts on the case when our youngest, most innocent and most vulnerable citizens go missing. This plan will also ensure that critical, identifying records and information are shared as quickly as possible after a child goes missing from Long Island or elsewhere.”
 
“Bringing Missing Children Home is a priority and we as government leaders owe it to the families and loved ones of these children to ensure law enforcement nationwide have access to the most up-to-date information available to assist in those efforts,” said Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano.
 
In 2013, over 1,800 Long Island children were reported missing and 230 cases are still active today, according to the New York Division of Criminal Justice Services. Specifically, there were 770 missing children cases in Nassau County in 2013, and 1,072 in Suffolk County. New York City reported 8,003 cases last year. At the event, Schumer highlighted a few examples of still-active cases, including the disappearance of  sixteen-year old Chastity Owens from a shelter in Dix Hills in August 2014 and the incident when fifteen-year old Maria Roblero Bravo went missing in 2012 along with her newborn son from their foster home in Brentwood.
 
Etan Patz’s case is credited with bringing greater attention to missing children and particularly to the use of photos to try to find them, and Schumer said today that with the recent confession of Etan Patz’s murderer, we must forge forward and continue improving the existing system to locate missing children. Schumer highlighted several flaws in this system. First, missing persons units like those on Long Island and the New York State Attorney Generals 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 from Long Island goes missing in Westchester County, the Nassau 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.
 
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 his colleagues to action and urged the passage of the bipartisan Bringing Missing Children Home Act of 2014, which he sponsors with Senator Portman. This legislation just passed the Senate Judiciary Committee in recent weeks. 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. 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.
 
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.

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