NORTH LITTLE ROCK — The families of missing Arkansas children and adults can count on the attorney general’s office for support, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge pledged Wednesday.

NORTH LITTLE ROCK — The families of missing Arkansas children and adults can count on the attorney general’s office for support, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge pledged Wednesday.


"Although some here today have been searching for decades, we want you to know that you are not alone," Rutledge said in a speech at the at the 4th annual Never Forgotten — Arkansas Takes Action event, which her office organized at Camp Robinson in North Little Rock.


The attorney general said her office works hard, in cooperation with law enforcement agencies, to reach out to the families of the missing.


"Families tell me and members of the attorney general’s staff how important it is for them because they know that they are not forgotten, especially by law enforcement, and they know that they do not have to face these hardships alone," she said.


Nearly 30 families of missing Arkansans participated in the day-long event, the largest number yet. Among the family members was Colleen Nick, whose daughter, Morgan Nick, disappeared from an Alma ballpark 20 years ago at age 6.


Colleen Nick said in a speech to the gathering that on any given day in the United States, about 100,000 people are missing. In Arkansas, 471 people were listed as missing in April, she said.


"It’s very few times that we find people that think that this is an epidemic, that 471 people missing in our state is an epidemic. But it is an epidemic," said Nick, who founded the Morgan Nick Foundation in 1996 to work to find missing children, prevent child abductions and advocate for the rights of children.


"We stand together today to declare that we will not give up, we will not be silent, and we will not forget," she said.


The day’s activities included a three-hour training session for nearly 200 law enforcement officers and a session in which families of missing people were invited to talk to investigators, provide updated information and provide DNA samples via cheek swabs.


In one of the most emotional of the day’s activities, Rutledge gave yellow roses and hugs to the family members in attendance while photos of the missing were shown on large screens. Several of the family members were seen wiping away tears after being embraced by the attorney general.


Rutledge told reporters that at the first Never Forgotten event, organized by the office of then-Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, a DNA sample provided by a family member led to the identification of the remains of a missing person from Earle.


"We’re hopeful that we can bring some loved ones home and give the families closure, but most importantly we want this to remain as a focus for law enforcement as communities to never forget these individuals and to stand with these families as they go through days that most of us can never imagine," said Rutledge, who took office in January.


Members of Rutledge’s staff said that at each of the events in past years, someone came forward to report a missing person for the first time.


"I think to have a room full of families that are going through the same thing offers them that comfort level to be able to report these things," said Rutledge spokesman Judd Deere.


Also during the event, Nick presented Morgan’s Choice Awards to the state’s two Child Abduction Response Teams, which are based in western and northwestern Arkansas, and to state Rep. Bill Gossage, R-Ozark, for his work in obtaining a $100,000 commitment from the attorney general’s office this year to fund training for 10 new teams across the state.


Rutledge presented a Star of Excellence Award to Carol Robinson, who retired last month after working in the attorney general’s office for more than 20 years. For many of those years she was the office’s point of contact with the state’s missing children clearinghouse, Rutledge said.


Assisting the attorney general’s office in organizing Wednesday’s event were the Morgan Nick Foundation, the state Crime Lab, the Arkansas State Police, the FBI, the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.