An Amber Alert is a message that is sent out by a child abduction alert system to ask the public for help in finding missing or abducted children. The system was created in the United States in 1996, after the kidnapping and murder of Amber Hagerman, a 9-year-old girl from Texas. The name Amber is also an acronym for America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response.
The purpose of an Amber Alert is to quickly disseminate information about a child abduction to the public, so that they can assist law enforcement in locating the child and the suspect. The information usually includes the name and description of the child, the description and license plate number of the suspect’s vehicle, and the direction of travel. The alert is broadcasted through various channels, such as radio, television, highway signs, text messages, social media, and online platforms.
According to the Department of Justice, there are some criteria that must be met before an Amber Alert is issued:
- There is reasonable belief by law enforcement that an abduction has occurred.
- The law enforcement agency believes that the child is in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death.
- There is enough descriptive information about the victim and the abduction for law enforcement to issue an AMBER Alert to assist in the recovery of the child.
- The abduction is of a child aged 17 years or younger.
- The child’s name and other critical data elements, including the Child Abduction flag, have been entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) system.
Each state and region has its own Amber Alert plan and coordinator, who decides whether to activate an alert or not. The alerts are also coordinated with neighboring states and countries, such as Canada and Mexico. As of January 2, 2023, there have been 1,127 children successfully recovered through the Amber Alert system.
An Amber Alert is a powerful tool that can help save lives, but it also requires public awareness and cooperation. If you receive an Amber Alert, you should pay attention to the details and contact law enforcement if you have any information that can help. You should also avoid spreading false or outdated information, as this can interfere with the investigation and cause unnecessary panic. Remember, an Amber Alert is not a hoax or a joke; it is a serious matter that involves a child’s safety.