It's been a highly publicized, and often successful, program. It's aimed at tracking down missing and abducted children before harm is done to them, but "missing and abducted" is the key point of the Amber Alert system.
One of the criteria for issuing an alert is a confirmation by law enforcement that a child has been abducted.
"The whole procedure involves a category one missing juvenile," says Washington County Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy Larry Mincks. "That means a verified abduction by a stranger, or circumstances indicating the missing child is in imminent danger or possibly had been killed."
Authorities also have to believe the circumstances of the abduction indicate the child is in danger of serious bodily harm or death.
Finally, for an immediate alert to be made, there would have to be enough information available to describe not only the child and the abductor but also the suspect's vehicle.
Even with all the tools at law enforcement's disposal, the severity of the case still has to be determined. That is, whether the case involves just a runaway or just an outright abduction.
"If the child is missing, and it's young, it's a very important consideration and something we react to as best as we can," says Mincks.
In 2001, the Sheriff's Department was involved in an intense search for a missing girl in the Newport, Ohio area. That search had a happy ending, but it was determined later on that the girl had left home voluntarily.
For concepts like Amber Alert to succeed, it often is a matter of what law enforcement departments know, and when they know it.
The AMBER Plan
The AMBER Plan is a voluntary partnership between law-enforcement agencies and broadcasters to activate an urgent bulletin in the most serious child-abduction cases.
Broadcasters use the Emergency Alert System (EAS), formerly called the Emergency Broadcast System, to air a description of the missing child and suspected abductor.
This is the same concept used during severe weather emergencies. The goal of the AMBER Alert is to instantly galvanize the entire community to assist in the search for and safe return of the child.
- The AMBER Plan was created in 1996 as a powerful legacy to 9-year-old Amber Hagerman who was kidnapped and brutally murdered while riding her bicycle in Arlington, Texas.
- The tragedy shocked and outraged the entire community. Residents contacted radio stations in the Dallas area and suggested they broadcast special "alerts" over the airwaves so that they could help prevent such incidents in the future.
- The Dallas/Fort Worth Association of Radio Managers teamed up with local law enforcement agencies in northern Texas and developed this innovative early warning system to help find abducted children.
How Does the AMBER Plan Work?
- Once law enforcement has been notified about an abducted child, they must first determine if the case meets the AMBER Plan’s criteria for triggering an alert.
- The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children suggests three criteria that should be met before an Alert is activated.
- 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.
- Law enforcement confirms a child has been abducted.
- If these criteria are met, alert information must be put together for public distribution.
- This information can include descriptions and pictures of the missing child, the suspected abductor, a suspected vehicle, and any other information available and valuable to identifying the child and suspect.
- The information is then faxed to radio stations designated as primary stations under the Emergency Alert System (EAS).
- The primary stations send the same information to area radio and television stations and cable systems via the EAS, and it is immediately broadcast by participating stations to millions of listeners.
- Radio stations interrupt programming to announce the Alert, and television stations and cable systems run a "crawl" on the screen along with a picture of the child.
- Since the original AMBER Plan was established, 88 modified versions have been adopted at local, regional, and statewide levels. Thirty-eight states have a state-wide plan.
AMBER Plans Nationwide
- Alabama, Tuscaloosa County – AMBER Plan
- Alabama, Dothan -- AMBER Alert Plan
- Arizona, statewide -- Arizona Child Abduction Alert Plan
- Arizona, Tucson (Pima County) – Missing Child Alert
- Arkansas, statewide – Morgan Nick Alert
- California, statewide – California Child Safety AMBER Network
- California, Corcoran – To Rescue Abducted Children Immediately (TRACI)
- California, Sacramento – Child Abduction Regional Emergency Alert (CARE)
- California, San Francisco -- Bay Area AMBER Alert Plan
- California, Orange County – Child Abduction Regional Emergency Alert (CARE)
- Connecticut, statewide – Connecticut AMBER Plan
- Colorado, statewide – Colorado AMBER Plan
- Florida, statewide – Florida Emergency Missing Child Alert (FEMA)
- Georgia, statewide – Levi's CALL
- Hawaii, Honolulu -- MAILE Alert
- Idaho, Boise -- AMBER Alert
- Idaho, Madison County -- AMBER Alert
- Iowa, statewide -- AMBER Alert Plan
- Illinois, Belleville – St. Louis Area Regional Abduction Alert
- Illinois, statewide – Illinois AMBER Plan
- Indiana, Portage -- Missing Child Alert Plan
- Indiana, southeastern – Child Abduction Alert Program (CAAP)
- Indiana, statewide -- AMBER Alert
- Indiana, Allen County -- AMBER Plan
- Kansas, statewide -- AMBER Plan
- Kansas, Topeka (Jefferson City) – AMBER Alert
- Kansas, Wichita – AMBER Alert
- Kentucky, northern – Child Abduction Alert Program (CAAP)
- Kentucky, statewide -- Kentucky AMBER Alert System
- Louisiana, statewide -- AMBER Plan
- Maine, statewide -- AMBER Alert Program
- Maryland, statewide -- AMBER Plan
- Massachusetts, statewide -- AMBER Alert Plan
- Michigan, statewide – Michigan AMBER Alert
- Minnesota, statewide – Minnesota AMBER Alert
- Mississippi, statewide -- AMBER Alert
- Missouri, Kansas City – AMBER Alert
- Missouri, St. John – St. Louis Area Regional Abduction Alert
- Missouri, Northwestern MO -- Northwestern Missouri AMBER Plan
- Missouri, St. Louis – St. Louis Area Regional Abduction Alert
- Montana, statewide -- Montana AMBER Alert
- Nebraska, statewide -- AMBER Plan
- Nevada, Reno – Krystal Child Abduction Alert Plan
- New Jersey, statewide -- AMBER Plan
- New Mexico, Albuquerque – AMBER Alert
- New Mexico, statewide -- AMBER Alert
- New York, statewide – AMBER Alert
- North Carolina, Raleigh – NC Child Alert Notification System (NC CAN)
- North Carolina, Stokes County – AMBER Alert
- North Dakota, Fargo – JEANNA Alert
- North Dakota, statewide -- AMBER Alert Plan
- Ohio, Cincinnati – Child Abduction Alert Program (CAAP)
- Ohio, Mid-Ohio Region – Mid-Ohio Stranger Abduction Alert
- Ohio, Tuscarawas County – AMBER Alert Plan
- Ohio, North Central Ohio -- AMBER Alert
- Ohio, Northern Ohio -- Northern Ohio AMBER Alert Program
- Ohio, Miami Valley -- AMBER Alert
- Ohio, East OH and West PA -- Mahoning Valley AMBER Alert
- Ohio, statewide -- AMBER Plan
- Oklahoma, statewide – Oklahoma AMBER Plan
- Oregon, Lane County -- AMBER Plan
- Oregon, statewide -- AMBER Plan
- Oregon, Washington County -- AMBER Plan
- Pennsylvania, statewide – AMBER Alert
- Rhode Island, statewide -- AMBER Alert
- South Carolina, statewide -- AMBER Alert
- South Dakota, Yankton – AMBER Alert
- South Dakota, statewide -- AMBER Alert
- Tennessee, Knoxville -- East Tennessee AMBER Alert Plan
- Tennessee, Memphis – AMBER Alert
- Tennessee, statewide -- AMBER Alert Plan
- Texas, Amarillo – AMBER Alert
- Texas, Beaumont – Save Our Kids
- Texas, Dallas/Ft. Worth – AMBER Plan
- Texas, Houston – Houston Regional AMBER Plan
- Texas, Wichita Falls – AMBER Plan
- Texas, statewide – AMBER Alert Network
- Utah, statewide – Rachael Alert
- Virginia, Richmond – Richmond Regional AMBER Alert System
- Virginia, Roanoke – Roanoke Valley AMBER Alert
- Virginia, Spotsylvania – Lisk-Silva Alerts
- Virginia, Statewide - AMBER Alert
- Washington, statewide -- AMBER Plan
- Washington, King County -- AMBER Alert Plan
- Washington D.C., Regional Metro – DC AMBER Plan (Metropolitan Regional Plan)
- West Virginia, statewide -- AMBER Alert
- Wisconsin, Green Bay – Green Bay AMBER Plan
- Wisconsin, La Cross -- 7 Rivers AMBER Plan
- Wisconsin, Madison – AMBER Plan
Source: http://www.missingkids.org/ (The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children Web site)