Children get abducted or are reported missing at a rate of 2,195 per day in the United States; and those frequently occur in even the “best” of neighborhoods.Named after Amber Hagerman who was abducted and murdered in 1996 (in Arlington, Texas), the AMBER Alert is a program that has evolved to an AMBER backronym for “America’s Missing: Broadcasting Emergency Response” since its alert process of the abducted or missing child is broadcast via the Emergency Alert System.According to the AMBER Alert government website “once law enforcement determines that a child has been abducted and the abduction meets AMBER Alert criteria, law enforcement issues an AMBER Alert and notifies broadcasters and state transportation officials.AMBER Alerts interrupt regular programming and are broadcast on radio and television and on highway signs. AMBER Alerts can also be issued on lottery tickets, wireless devices such as mobile phones, and over the Internet.Each state has its own criteria for issuing an alert, so as an active member of your neighborhood you should familiarize yourself with your state’s guidelines; but as a general rule if you witness an abduction and it falls within the following guidelines, an alert can be issued:
- Law enforcement must confirm that an abduction has taken place
- The law enforcement agency believes that the child is in imminent danger of serious bodily 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
Once law enforcement has determined that a child has been abducted and the abduction meets AMBER Alert criteria, law enforcement notifies broadcasters and state transportation officials.To date, ninety eight percent of the 495 AMBER Alert recoveries have occurred since AMBER Alert became a nationally coordinated effort in 2002. Additionally, anecdotal evidence demonstrates that perpetrators are well aware of the power of AMBER Alert, and in many cases have released an abducted child upon hearing the alert.If you’d like to bring this topic to the table for discussion in your neighborhood and have additional questions, you can access the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (who recently announced the expansion of the AMBER Alert program to Facebook)!