"Right now in Illinois, 2,347 children
are missing," Gov. Blagojevich said. "I hope people all over the
state will 'Light the Way Home' for our children. Turn on your
headlights when you're driving; switch on your porch light to
symbolize your commitment to finding these children. All year, let's
all remain vigilant and engaged in our communities and help us
return kids to safety."
Blagojevich administration has implemented several initiatives that
improve coordination among law enforcement and other agencies when
it comes to locating and recovering missing children. In April of
2003, the governor created the Illinois AMBER Task Force, making
Illinois one of only two states in the nation to create a
partnership with the National Weather Service and the Broadcasters
Association. Through the partnership, the Illinois State Police are
able to send information on missing or abducted children to radio
and television outlets throughout the state for immediate broadcast.
This week the Illinois AMBER Task
Force launched a new website, http://www.amberillinois.org, where
the latest updates on active AMBER broadcasts will be available, and
began airing public service announcements to raise the public's
awareness about the AMBER Alert system.
The AMBER Alert was activated 15
times in 2003 and 14 times in 2004, with 11 recoveries credited as a
Additionally, Illinois -- in a
partnership with Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan,
Missouri, Wisconsin, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, Minnesota,
and Ohio -- is active in the Interstate Agreement on Missing and
Exploited Children. The agreement was established as a network to
improve the identification and recovery of missing children. The
council is comprised of representatives of state law enforcement and
criminal justice agencies from each of the participating states and
"The state police will not waiver in
our mission to locate and safely return missing children to their
homes and loved ones," said Larry G. Trent, director of the Illinois
State Police. "We want to be sure that their recovery remains at the
forefront in the minds of our citizens. Initiatives such as these
serve to remind us of how precious our children are and that their
safety should never be taken for granted. We want to take every
possible measure to ensure our children never become victims of
these unspeakable crimes."
[to top of second column in this article]
The Department of Children and
Family Services, which is responsible for the care of children taken
into state custody, has also focused its energy on reducing the
number of children who run away from care. In November 2003, the
department established a Missing Child Unit. At that time there were
339 missing children in state care, and today the number has
decreased to 298. In mid-2003 the department created a database that
includes vital information and photos of every child in the state's
care and recently hired law enforcement liaison Roberta Bartik, a
30-year Chicago Police Department veteran, to further strengthen the
agency's efforts to find missing children.
"All of these resources have
combined to reduce the number of missing children in state care;
plus DCFS is able to recover children significantly faster now,"
says Bryan Samuels, director of the department. "The average number
of days on the run in 2001 was 238, but the average now is 45 days.
We're also improving services that will help prevent youth from
going on the run in the first place, because research shows
first-time runners often become chronic runners."
To recognize Missing Children's Day,
the Illinois Department of Transportation displayed messages on its
permanent changeable message boards on Wednesday. The signs read
"Missing Children's Day -- Light the Way Home -- Turn on your
headlights." The message was displayed on all message boards except
those being used for real-time traffic information, such as lane
closures, detours, congestion information or for an AMBER Alert.
[News release from the governor's