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Amber Alert Explained

Updated on January 21, 2013

Amber Alert Introduction

Nothing is worse than to learn your child has been abducted either by a family member or by a stranger. Not only do you have to cope with the stress connected to missing your child and the fear he or she may be hurt, you are also frantic to discover their whereabouts as soon as possible.

In 2006 The Department of Justice in America set up the Amber Alert program. This is a voluntary collaboration between several public bodies, law-enforcement agencies, local and national media including newspapers, radio and television and the transport industry.

The aim is to get a news bulletin out about the abduction as quickly as possible and involve the whole community in the search for the missing child. To further this aim the Department of Justice also set up an official website at http://www.amberalert.gov.

How Amber Alert Works

There are certain criteria that have to be met before a bulletin can go out. The child has to be aged 17-years-old or younger and must be at serious risk of injury or worse, and the law enforcement officers have to confirm that it is a genuine case of abduction before anything can be made public.

They also have to be 100% sure that any public broadcasts made will genuinely help find the child and not put his or her life in danger. Where possible a description of the kidnapper is given and/or a description of the vehicle used in the abduction.

Often someone comes forward saying they have witnessed the kidnapping or a suspicious vehicle has been seen in the area at the time of the kidnapping and these details will be used in the bulletin.

Before anything can be made public every detail of the case has to be entered into the National Crime Information Center including the age and description of the child and where they were last seen.

There is an Amber Alert co-ordinator in each of the 50 states in America and their contact details can be found on the Department of Justice official website www.amberalert.gov.

Abductions by strangers prove to be the most difficult cases because there is often no link to the family, but all kidnappings are taken seriously and if it is believed that the child is in danger an Amber Alert is always issued


A BillBoard displaying an Amber Alert Message in US
A BillBoard displaying an Amber Alert Message in US | Source

Success of Amber Alert

Since the program was first introduced in America in 2006 it has brought a considerable amount of success stories with a total of 602 children being safely recovered.

These include a 16-year-old girl in Missouri who was kidnapped by an acquaintance who assaulted her friend first. An Amber Alert was issued and a member of the public from her home state who happened to be in Georgia saw the vehicle the kidnapper used. Notifying the authorities a second Amber Alert was issued in that state which led to the kidnapper's arrest and the girl's safe recovery.

In another case a 2-year-old boy was kidnapped by his babysitter who failed to return him to his parents. Believing the child was in serious danger an Amber Alert was issued which was seen by a motorist on an electronic road sign. He spotted the kidnapper's car as he was driving along and notified law-enforcement officers immediately. The kidnapper was apprehended and the boy safely returned to his parents.

Following the success of the Amber Alert system in America other countries are now adopting the program to help to rescue abducted children and many lives are being saved by this voluntary community project.

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