Official AMBER Alert

There is an initiative, funded by a grant awarded by the National Institute of Justice, in West Virginia to have a picture taken annually when your child starts school which is stored in the event they become a missing child.

AmberView® mass broadcasts a digital picture of a missing or abducted child to law enforcement, news media, and citizens within minutes of an official AMBER Alert – effectively putting thousands of people across an entire region on alert.

With parental consent, a child’s digital picture is captured each year on School Picture day and stored, along with updated biographical information, in a secure database accessible only by the West Virginia State Police AMBER Alert Coordinator.

 
At first glance it appears to be a terrific idea not unlike the Child Alert Center. The site has a short film (video) describing a missing child abduction. In the film the presenter makes two interesting statements:
 
“Next to the actually abductor time is a missing child’s greatest enemy”
“What was your child wearing, a parent can’t provide an accurate biographical description of their child.”

Watching it, two questions may need to be answered.

What if my child’s appearance changes over the course of the year?

What if an AMBER Alert isn’t issued?

Alaska and Vermont issued their first AMBER Alerts on June 21, 2008 and on June 27, 2008 respectively. How many AMBER Alerts have been issued in your state? For an Alert to be issued, it has to meet specific criteria:

Each state AMBER Alert plan has its own criteria for issuing AMBER Alerts. The PROTECT Act, passed in 2003, which established the role of AMBER Alert Coordinator within the Department of Justice (DOJ), calls for DOJ to issue minimum standards or guidelines for AMBER Alerts that states can adopt voluntarily. DOJ’s guidance on criteria for issuing AMBER Alerts is:

  • Law enforcement must confirm that an abduction has taken place
  • The child is at risk of serious injury or death
  • There is sufficient descriptive information of child, captor, or captor’s vehicle to issue an alert
  • The child must be 17 years old or younger
  • It is recommended that immediate entry of AMBER Alert data be entered in FBI’s National Crime Information Center. Text information describing the circumstances surrounding the abduction of the child should be entered, and the case flagged as Child Abduction.

Most state’s guidelines adhere closely to DOJ’s recommended guidelines.

Nearly 800,000 children are reported missing every year yet less than 300 annually have qualified for an Amber Alert since its inception. In fact, 90% of the 311 AMBER Alert recoveries have occurred since the AMBER Alert became a nationally coordinated effort in 2002.

There were 275 Alerts issued nationwide in 2005, falling to 262 in 2006 and 227 in 2007.

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