On May 21, 2008, Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey honored law enforcement officers and citizens from across the country for their tireless commitment to recovering missing children and combating child exploitation.
This year’s ceremony stressed the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) commitment to bringing missing children home safely and highlighted the progress made through initiatives that the Department, its components, and state and local partners have developed and implemented to protect children, such as Project Safe Childhood, which marked its second anniversary this spring.
At the ceremony, Attorney General Mukasey recognized the following awardees:
- Two detectives—Justin Spence, Florida Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, and Sgt. Jay Poupard, Michigan Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force—received the Attorney General’s Special Commendation Award for their prompt actions and information sharing, which saved the life of an 8-year-old girl. Their actions also prevented the further distribution of pornographic images.
- Lt. Jessica Farnsworth from the Utah Attorney General’s Office of Investigations received the AMBER Alert (America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response) Law Enforcement Award for her efforts to create the Utah Attorney General’s Child Abduction Response Team, for which she successfully recruited dedicated Federal, State, and local investigators, along with highly skilled support staff.
- Two radiological technologists, Lisa Ahlbrandt and Sue Midgett, from Norfolk, Virginia, were presented with the AMBER Alert Citizen Award for their intuitive actions and fortitude in safely recovering an abducted infant.
- Trooper 1st Class Becky North, a Maryland State Police Officer, received the Child Protection Award for her tenacity in investigating a child abuse case, in which a sex offender received a 99-year prison sentence.
- Doyoun Park, a fifth grader from Quail Hollow Elementary School in Sandy, Utah, was selected as winner of the 2008 National Missing Children’s Day poster contest.
Awardees were also recognized for their outstanding contributions to the AMBER Alert program. AMBER Alerts have saved the lives of more than 400 children since the program began in 1996. In 2001, only four states had statewide AMBER Alert plans. In 2005, the Department met its goal of having statewide AMBER Alert plans in all 50 states. The Department is now working with Canada and Mexico to have plans in place in the event children are abducted across our northern or southern borders. The Department also is expanding the AMBER Alert program into Indian Country.
During the ceremony, the Department’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) announced the release of a new publication, You’re Not Alone: The Journey from Abduction to Empowerment. Written with the assistance of young adults who were abducted as children, the publication is designed to help other survivors of abduction recover from their trauma and gain a sense of empowerment over the experience. The document joins two other OJJDP publications that support those affected by abduction: When Your Child Is Missing: A Family Survival Guide, which provides helpful advice and information from parents of missing or abducted children, and What About Me? Coping with the Abduction of a Brother or Sister, which was written by siblings of missing or abducted children and helps brothers and sisters who are left behind cope in the aftermath of an abduction.
Assistant Attorney General
Office of Justice Programs
On July 1, 2008, the U.S. Department of Justice announced the final guidelines for Title I of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006—the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA). The guidelines provide necessary tools for states, the District of Columbia, territories, and certain federally recognized Indian tribes to incorporate SORNA minimum requirements into their sex offender registration and notification programs.
The final guidelines provide direction and assistance to all jurisdictions in their efforts to meet the minimum standards of the Adam Walsh Act. Since the enactment of the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act in 1994, all states, the District of Columbia, and two territories currently
Before the guidelines were finalized, the Department published proposed guidelines for the SORNA provisions of the Adam Walsh Act in the Federal Register on May 30, 2007, which were available for public comment until August 1, 2007. More than 275 comments were received from criminal justice professionals, sex offender registration officials, State and local governments, tribal communities, Congress, and the general public. Based on the comments received, the final guidelines provide general principles for jurisdictions working to implement SORNA and further clarification on several topics, including the treatment of juveniles, retroactivity, tribal issues, information subject to Web site posting, and duration of registration.
In addition, the Department has awarded more than $11.8 million to State, local, and tribal governments to assist them in developing or enhancing programs designed to implement the SORNA provisions. These awards are made through the Adam Walsh Act Implementation Grant Program.
Associate Attorney General
A new performance standard for body armor was announced by the U.S. Department of Justice at the National Institute of Justice’s (NIJ) annual conference in Arlington, Virginia, on July 21, 2008. The new standard includes more rigorous testing and methods that expose body armor to temperature, humidity, and wear and tear prior to testing the performance.
Performance standards ensure that commercially available body armor, such as bullet-resistant vests, provide a minimum level of protection. NIJ has published standards for both ballistic and stab resistance of personal body armor for law enforcement and corrections officers.
The new standard is a major component in the Department’s 2003 Body Armor Safety Initiative, established in response to concerns from the law enforcement community about the effectiveness of body armor in use at that time. As part of the initiative, NIJ developed the enhanced compliance testing program in partnership with the National Institute of Standards and Technology Office of Law Enforcement Standards.
Assistant Attorney General
Office of Justice Programs
Forensic DNA Analysis
NIJ, a division of the Office of Justice Programs, funded the study through a competitive grant process. The five funded cities—Denver, Colorado; Topeka, Kansas; Phoenix, Arizona; Los Angeles, California; and Orange County, California—experimented with DNA evidence collection in property crimes. The experiment was designed to determine if collecting DNA evidence at property crimes scenes could be a cost-effective tool in helping local law enforcement officials identify and apprehend burglary suspects.
The Urban Institute conducted an independent evaluation of the study. Additional findings include the following:
- When DNA evidence is analyzed in property crimes, twice as many suspects are identified, twice as many suspects are arrested, and more than twice as many cases are accepted for prosecution compared with traditional investigation (which does not use DNA evidence).
- DNA evidence is at least five times as likely to result in suspect identification compared with fingerprint evidence.
- Suspects identified by DNA had at least twice as many prior felony arrests and convictions as those identified by traditional investigation.
The OVC HELP for Victim Service Providers Web Forum allows victim service providers and allied professionals to connect with peers and share ideas about best practices. Each month, through the Guest Host Session series, the Nation’s experts answer questions about best practices in victim services.
In 2008, between January and June, OVC hosted 11 Guest Host Sessions, yielding more than 600 posts to the Web Forum. An impressive roster of experts moderated these sessions, including Anne Seymour, cofounder and senior advisor of Justice Solutions, a nonprofit organization that specializes in crime victims’ rights and services; Dr. Mario Gaboury, Professor and Chair for the Department of Criminal Justice, University of New Haven; and Michelle Garcia, Director of the Stalking Resource Center at the National Center for Victims of Crime. High-activity sessions reflected current trends and issues of special concern to service providers—assisting victims of intimate partner stalking, cultivating relationships between victim service providers and the media, and responding to teen victims of dating violence.
OVC’s message board helps victim service providers exchange lessons and practices. Visit the Web Forum at http://ovc.ncjrs.gov/ovcproviderforum/.
Web Forum E-Alert
OVC’s e-mail alert service keeps the victim assistance community informed of recent activity on the Web Forum. Sign up at https://puborder.ncjrs.gov/listservs/
- Assisting Child Victims of Commercial Sexual Exploitation This topic will be further defined as it includes a number of different offenses. Additional topics include the use of technology, examples of how to reduce commercial sexual exploitation, and prevention techniques.
- Enforcing Victims’ Rights in Court This Session will focus on best practices for enforcing victims’ rights throughout court proceedings and the issues victim service providers may encounter during the process.
- Responding to Sexual Violence on Campus Session topics may include services available to victims on and off campus and the prevention of sexual violence in relation to specific at-risk populations (e.g., minority groups, women with disabilities, international students).