Today, January 13th is AMBER Alert Awareness Day.
The AMBER Alert™ Program is a voluntary partnership between law-enforcement agencies, broadcasters, transportation agencies, and the wireless industry, to activate an urgent bulletin in the most serious child-abduction cases. The goal of an AMBER Alert is to instantly galvanize the entire community to assist in the search for and the safe recovery of the child.
The AMBER Alert (America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response) honors the memory Amber Hageman who was murdered after being abducted from her home in 1996. The AMBER Alert became a nationally coordinated effort in 2002. There have been more than 426 AMBER Alert recoveries.
Though it is often described as a system used to assist in finding missing children, most states only activate them in the case where a child has been abducted.
The AMBER Alert system began in 1996 when Dallas-Fort Worth broadcasters teamed with local police to develop an early warning system to help find abducted children. The system was created in memory of nine-year-old Amber Hagerman of Arlington, Texas, who was abducted while riding her bicycle and later found murdered. AMBER (America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response) Alerts are emergency messages broadcast when a law enforcement agency determines that a child has been abducted and is in imminent danger. The broadcasts include information about the child and the abductor, including physical descriptions and information about the abductor’s vehicle, which could lead to the child’s recovery.
What are the criteria for issuing AMBER Alerts?
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