In 1996, 9-year-old Amber Hagerman of Arlington, Texas, was abducted, raped and murdered. Her killer was never caught. After the crime, the citizens learned that local law enforcement agencies had information that could help them find them shortly after the abduction, but the authorities did not have the systematic means to disseminate it. As a result of this horrific crime, Amber Alert, a system of law enforcement and media reports in Texas that has spread across the country, was born. Today, all 50 states have their own Amber Alert plans. In just ten years (since its official launch in July 1997), the programme has safely brought home at least 333 abducted children.
The system uses the same emergency broadcast networks that are used to warn the public about extreme weather conditions. A description of the missing child and the alleged kidnapper and his car has been released to immediately alert the public as the crime continues. In addition to radio and television, warnings about the missing child also appear on national road signs and on the screens of lottery machines.
Upon learning of the abduction of the child, law enforcement officials must first determine whether the case meets the criteria for an amber warning. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children offers three criteria that need to be met before an amber warning is triggered:
- Police confirm the abduction of a child
- Police believe that the circumstances of the abduction indicate that the child is at risk of serious injury or death
- There is enough descriptive information about the child, the kidnapper and/or the vehicle in which he is travelling to conclude that immediate notification of release is helpful.
The information is then faxed to radio and television stations designated as the main stations under the Emergency Alert System (EAS). It is important that these criteria are met before a warning is issued so that the public does not forget the warnings when they hear some of them. For example, many child abductions are committed by family members involved in a custody dispute, and such cases are not preventable because there is noStop paying attention to warnings after hearing a few of them. For example, many child abductions were committed by family members involved in a custody dispute and such cases were not preventable, as there was usually no reason to fear that the child was at risk of injury.
Unfortunately, amber Alert and the missing children were e-mailed. Information about the missing child can be sent to the post office; It is important to note that this is not related to this amber warning, which is broadcast only on radio and television.
Similar programs exist in Canada and England. The English program is called Child Rescue Alert. Sussex was the first county in England to launch the programme in November 2002. The requirements are similar to those of the U.S. system. In the U.S., some states have other names for their systems besides Amber Alert. In Georgia it is known as Levi’s Call, in Hawaii it is Maile Amber Alert, and in Arkansas – Morgan Nick Amber Alert.
As the law continues to address issues related to false alarms, hoaxes, and cases unrelated to the allegations, success stories speak for themselves about the value of the Amber Alert program. Mara Downs can confirm this: on April 24, 2006, she was caught on the lawn just after getting off the school bus. Three teenagers, hoping for a ransom, threw her in the trunk of a Toyota Camry and left the car in the trunk, intending to return the next day. The woman who saw the Amber Alert Report looked out the window and saw a Camry that matched the description of the one in the warning and notified the police, who found and released Mara. It happened in Ramapo, New York, and was one of three Amber alerts issued in the state that year, and they all ended in a safe recovery.