Focus on Amber Alerts

Focus on “Amber Alerts”

The term “Amber Alert” is being used a lot with stories about missing children.

The Amber Alert system originated in Arlington, Texas after nine-year-old Amber Hagerman was abducted and murdered in 1996.

A quick response is important in child abductions.  A report in Time Magazine said that seventy-four percent of children who are killed by their abductors have died within three hours of being kidnapped.  After Amber’s tragic death, the Dallas/Fort Worth Association of Radio Managers came up with the idea of working with the police to broadcast details about a child abduction as quickly as possible and using the Emergency Broadcast System, a networking of stations that already exists to alert the public of major emergencies such as tornado or flood warnings.  The system was originally designed to warn of nuclear attack.  

In addition to broadcast warnings, many states have set up electronic signs along major highways that can also quickly spread the details of a kidnapping such as descriptions of the child, the abductor, and other details such as suspect license numbers.

There are numerous success stories of children who have been rescued and suspects who have been arrested.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has issued guidelines to be used to deciding whether to issue an Amber alert:

…law enforcement confirms a child has been abducted
…law enforcement believes the circumstances surrounding the abduction indicate that the child is in danger of serious bodily harm or death
…there is enough descriptive information about the child, abductor, and/or suspect’s vehicle to believe an immediate broadcast alert will help 

Amber alerts tend to be broadcast in major population areas and different states and agencies handle the alerts in different ways.