A few recent AMBER Alerts seems to have been the focus of some media discussion. Some felt the alert was a nuisance while others view the alert as a beacon of hope that a child may be rescued. It seems to me, a recap of how the AMBER Alert System was developed might be in order, and more importantly, to serve as a reminder. While the brief alert tone may be an annoyance to some, the purpose of the system is to locate and safely return missing or abducted children.
The AMBER Alert System began in 1996 in Dallas, Fort Worth when broadcasters teamed up with local police to develop an early warning system to assist in finding missing and abducted children. AMBER is an acronym for America’s Missing Broadcast Emergency Response a legacy created for 9-year-old Amber Hagerman who was kidnapped and subsequently brutally murdered.
The AMBER Alert was further expanded when President G.W. Bush signed the PROTECT Act which codified the AMBER Alert System into law. The AMBER Alert program continued to build until February 2005 when Hawaii became the 50th state to join the nationwide network.
Housed within the Department of Justice, the AMBER ALERT Coordinator was charged with the establishment of a standard nationwide protocol, which serves as the bedrock of the system. The four key criterion for the issuance of an alert are: Law enforcement has confirmed an abduction did occur. The child is at risk of serious injury or death, law enforcement possess sufficient descriptive information on the child, captor or captor’s vehicle to issue an alert, and the child must be seventeen-years of age or less.
The Department of Justice teamed with the wireless phone industry allowing subscribers to “opt in” to receive AMBER Alert information sent directly to their phones.
Technology has continued to expand significantly, allowing AMBER Alert messages to be pushed to road-side reader boards, television, radio, and the internet. Since inception, the AMBER Alert system has assisted in the rescue and safe return of 656 children! Please, take note the next time you see or hear an AMBER Alert, the child saved just may be your own.