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.
How Does the AMBER Plan Work?
AMBER Plans Nationwide
Source: http://www.missingkids.org/ (The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children Web site)