AMBER ALERT CONFERENCE HELPS BUILD
DALLAS, TX - Teams from all 50 states, the territories and the District of Columbia will gather here August 3-5 at the first National Training Conference on AMBER (America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response) Alert to discuss strategies for strengthening the AMBER Alert system across the country. The teams, made up of law enforcement, broadcasters, and highway safety personnel, will meet under the leadership of Deborah J. Daniels, Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs and National AMBER Alert Coordinator.
“Seventy-four percent of children who are kidnapped and later found murdered are killed within the first three hours after being taken,” said Daniels. “Through the commitment of the individuals participating in this conference, we’ll be able to create a seamless network of AMBER Alerts nationwide, so that we can increase the chances that an abducted child will be recovered quickly and safely.”
Participants will take part in workshops focusing on all aspects of successful AMBER Alert plans, gaining practical information on: the best practices for issuing an AMBER Alert; relevant technology; and conducting a successful AMBER program. They will also gain insight into what motivates child abductors, and an understanding of the victims’ perspective, hearing directly from a child victim and victims’ families. Featured speakers will include Daniels, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Tamara Brooks (abducted California teenager), and Patty Wetterling, mother of an abducted child. Donna Norris, mother of Amber Hagerman for whom the AMBER system was named, will conclude the conference with her presentation, “A Parent’s Wish.”
The conference will also mark the launch of a new Web page, which can be accessed through the Office of Justice home page (www.ojp.usdoj.gov). The site will feature up-to-date information from the National AMBER Alert Coordinator, information and publications about keeping children safe and preventing abductions, a list of state AMBER Alert coordinators and local contacts, resources for making AMBER programs work effectively and training opportunities.
AMBER Alerts are broadcast when law enforcement determines that a child has been abducted and is in imminent danger. In addition, there must be enough information available about the kidnapper or the child, such as appearance, vehicle description, etc., which could potentially lead to apprehension of a suspect and recovery of the child. Since 1996, AMBER Alerts have been credited with the safe recovery of over 80 children through the 92 AMBER programs now operating in states, cities and regions throughout the United States.
The AMBER Alert system began in 1996 when Dallas-Fort Worth broadcasters teamed with local police to develop an early warning system to help find abducted children. The plan was created as a legacy to nine-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was kidnapped while riding her bicycle in Arlington, and then brutally murdered. Other states and communities soon set up their own AMBER plans as the idea was adopted across the nation.
Following the first-ever White House Conference on Missing, Exploited and Runaway Children in October 2002, hosted by the President and Mrs. Bush, Attorney General John Ashcroft appointed Assistant Attorney General Daniels as National AMBER Alert Coordinator. She actively began to develop a strategy to improve the then loosely-defined system, meeting with a national advisory board made up of officials from the Departments of Justice and Transportation, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, broadcasters and law enforcement officers.
In April, the President signed the PROTECT Act into law. This landmark legislation comprehensively strengthens law enforcement’s ability to prevent, investigate, prosecute and punish violent crimes committed against children. The PROTECT Act established the National Coordinator position and tasks the Coordinator to help eliminate gaps in the AMBER network, support development of state plans and efforts, provide regional AMBER coordination, facilitate network development and establish guidance on criteria for issuing an AMBER Alert. The conference constitutes a major step in fulfilling the Act’s requirements.
The Office of Justice Programs (OJP) provides federal leadership in developing the nation’s capacity to prevent and control crime, administer justice, and assist crime victims. OJP is headed by an Assistant Attorney General and comprises 5 component bureaus and 2 offices: the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, and the Office for Victims of Crime, as well as the Executive Office for Weed and Seed, and the Office of the Police Corps and Law Enforcement Education. Information about OJP programs, publications, and conferences is available on the OJP Web site, www.ojp.usdoj.gov.
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