The following post appears courtesy of Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs Mary Lou Leary.
On January 13th, the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs (OJP) observes the day in 1996 when nine-year-old Amber Hagerman was abducted in Arlington, Texas, while riding her bicycle. Her abduction and brutal murder launched the creation of the AMBER (America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response) Alert program. On this day we remind everyone to recommit themselves and remain alert and responsive to these emergency broadcasts for missing children.
Because of AMBER Alerts, 602 abducted children have been successfully recovered and brought home safely.
In the aftermath of Amber Hagerman’s abduction and murder, local broadcasters joined with law enforcement to create the AMBER Alert system. AMBER Alerts are emergency messages issued when a law enforcement agency determines that a child has been abducted and is in imminent danger. The broadcasts include information about the child and abductor that could lead to the child’s recovery, such as physical description and information about the abductor’s vehicle.
We know that the first few hours a child is missing are critical. That’s why, as the National AMBER Alert Coordinator, I’m pleased to have seen a rapid expansion in our partnerships and ability to get the word out quickly.
With funding from OJP, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) manages distribution of AMBER Alerts to a network of partners including law enforcement, radio and TV broadcasters, transportation agencies, lottery and highway signs, airports and truck stops, Yahoo, Facebook and AOL.
In November 2011, Google joined the network, providing real-time AMBER Alert updates to users of Google Map and Google Search features. And as of January 1, 2013, millions of cellphone users across the country now receive automatic notifications about abducted children in their area as part of the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) program.
OJP provides targeted training and technical assistance to AMBER Alert Coordinators, law enforcement, child protection professionals and other key stakeholders to support their efforts to recover abducted, missing and endangered children and bring them home safely.
Resources are also available through NCMEC’s website for parents on how to keep your child safer, know what to do if your child is missing, understand the importance of having a good quality photo of your child, and other frequently asked questions.
We will continue to work to protect our nation’s children from harm and to bring missing children home safely.