FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 14, 2007
Contact:           ERIN ISAAC
(850) 488-5394
  ERIN GERAGHTY
850-488-4855
HEATHER SMITH
(850) 410-7001

Governor Crist Announces Florida First in Nation to
Access National Crime Database

~ High-tech tool enhances the state’s ability to protect abused children ~

TALLAHASSEE- Governor Charlie Crist today joined Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) Secretary Bob Butterworth and Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) Commissioner Gerald Bailey to announce DCF’s new access to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC). The new resource will provide child protection investigators with direct, online access to national criminal justice information such as criminal history records and warrants. The access will enhance the state’s ability to protect child victims of abuse and neglect.

"Florida once again leads the way for the rest of the nation by providing unprecedented access to technology that will defend our children," said Governor Crist. "It is our duty to seek every available resource to protect Florida’s most vulnerable citizens. This powerful tool will help protect both the victims of child abuse and neglect and the public servants charged with protecting them."

The passage of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act in July 2006 enabled state human services agencies to apply for access to the NCIC database. DCF was one of the first state agencies to apply for the access and is now the first in the country to implement the database technology into their reporting system. The access will allow investigators to conduct more thorough background checks on individuals referred to in reports of alleged child abuse and neglect.

DCF employees who conduct criminal history checks of all child abuse and neglect reports can now review the backgrounds of alleged abusers within minutes of receiving a report, allowing them to identify potentially hazardous situations sooner. Department staff will be able to identify individuals with past serious criminal charges, such as weapons possession or assault and battery. All 79 employees in DCF’s Abuse Hotline Crime Intelligence Unit have been trained to use the NCIC criminal database and began using it February 26, 2007.

"Thanks to our partnership with FDLE, access to this database will undoubtedly improve the safety for our investigators," said Secretary Butterworth. "Prior to initiating an investigation, our employees will now know what kind of people they – and the alleged victims – are dealing with, and will be able to respond properly based on that knowledge."

The Florida Departments of Law Enforcement and Children and Families have a history of partnering together in information sharing. In 1998, changes to Florida Statutes provided FDLE with the authority to make state-level criminal history information available to DCF, as well as information on missing and wanted persons. Since then, the two agencies have supported federal legislation that would expand access to national information for social service agencies.

"Having the right information available immediately to investigators can make a difference in protecting child victims," said Commissioner Bailey. "We’re pleased to see these kinds of changes made on the national level that help equip our social service agencies with the tools and resources they need to safeguard our children."

DCF also recently unveiled online technology aimed at streamlining abuse reporting and protective investigations. Now, abuse reports can be filed through the Department’s Web site, as well as through the statewide hotline number. State child protective service agencies estimate more than one million children nationwide are victims of child abuse and neglect each year. Many victims do not receive help because they are not reported to the system.

To file a report of alleged abuse or neglect, simply call 1-800-96-ABUSE (1-800-962-2873) or visit http://www.dcf.state.fl.us/abuse/report/ and click on the icon, "Complete a Florida Abuse Hotline Report."

For more information about the Florida Department of Children and Families and Florida's Abuse Hotline services, visit http://www.state.fl.us/cf_web/.


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