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Bill gives police new tools in searching for missing children

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), John Cornyn (R-TX), and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) have introduced the Access to Information About Missing Children Act of 2010, a bipartisan bill that would help local law enforcement locate missing children whose whereabouts could be discovered through basic information on tax returns. Currently the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is barred from sharing the information with law enforcement officials even though in many cases the IRS may have information about the location of a missing child.

"As a former prosecutor, I know that returning missing children to their families is one of law enforcement's highest priorities," Klobuchar said. "This legislation will cut red tape and provide police and prosecutors access to leads that can help bring missing children home. From the investigators on the case, to the anxious parents waiting at home, we can provide new information to help track down missing children and bring criminals to justice."

"Our nation's youth are our most precious asset, and law enforcement must employ every tool available to them to protect those most vulnerable," Sen. Cornyn said. "This bill will aid investigators in cutting through red tape when time is of the essence, and is the beginning of a bipartisan effort to find a common-sense solution that will help return missing children to their distraught parents."

"I am pleased to cosponsor the bipartisan Access to Information about Missing Children Act," said Leahy. "I was concerned to learn recently that a gap in existing law prohibits state and local law enforcement from obtaining information from the IRS that could be used to investigate and prosecute cases involving missing and exploited children. This important legislation will close the gap and in doing so, give law enforcement an additional tool to find and protect missing children."

Over 800,000 children are reported missing each year, and more than 200,000 of those cases are the result of family abductions. Family abductors frequently assume false identities and travel to different states to escape detection. However, a significant number of these abductors continue to file federal tax returns. According to a 2007 Treasury Department study, captors filed missing children's social security numbers with the IRS in more than a third of cases.

If passed, the bill would grant law enforcement access to names and addresses on federal tax returns as long as they obtain court orders from a federal district court or magistrate judge.