100th CHILD RECOVERED THROUGH AMBER ALERTS
WASHINGTON, D.C. - With the recovery of a 2-year-old boy in DeMotte, Indiana, AMBER Alerts across the country have led to the safe return of 100 abducted children since the program's inception at the local level seven years ago - with over half of all recoveries since President Bush's call to action in the fall of last year at a White House Conference on Missing and Exploited Children.
"As a nation, we rejoice each time one of our children is brought home safely after enduring the trauma of an abduction. The AMBER Alert program has proven to be a vital, successful tool in returning these innocent children to their families," said Attorney General John Ashcroft.
AMBER (America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response) Alerts are emergency messages broadcast when law enforcement determines that a child has been abducted and is in imminent danger. The broadcasts include information about the child, the abductor, such as physical descriptions, as well as information about the abductor's vehicle, which could lead to the child's recovery and the apprehension of the suspect.
This most recent AMBER success story involved all the major components of the AMBER Alert program: law enforcement, broadcasters, transportation, and the community. When law enforcement issued an AMBER based on suspected danger to the child, the message was broadcasted on radio and television and displayed on highway signs. Private citizens were searching for the license plate number; however, in this case, the woman accused of abducting her non-custodial son surrendered to the police after realizing the AMBER was in full force and she would be found.
"An AMBER Alert can only be successful through the cooperation and coordination among law enforcement, broadcasters, transportation officials, and the vigilant public - all working together to find abducted children," said Deborah J. Daniels, Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) and the National AMBER Alert Coordinator. "As National Coordinator, I am working with dedicated individuals from around the country to support the 92 existing AMBER Alert programs, and ensure that we have a seamless network in place to protect our children."
Under Daniels' leadership, teams made up of law enforcement, broadcasters, and highway safety personnel from all 50 states, the territories and the District of Columbia gathered in Dallas last month for the first-ever National Training Conference on AMBER Alert to discuss the national strategy and examine state and local strategies for strengthening the AMBER Alert system across the country. The national strategy for AMBER coordination includes: assessing current AMBER activity; creating a coordinated AMBER network; and communicating "lessons learned." This fall, state coordinators will meet to review technology available to enhance AMBER operations accessible to law enforcement and broadcasters which can increase their communication abilities across state lines.
A long-term partnership between OJP and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) has led to the development of AMBER Alert programs at local, state, and regional levels nationwide. There are currently 45 statewide plans, 32 of which have been implemented since August of 2002. NCMEC works closely with the coordinators from the states and territories in determining whether recoveries of abducted children are attributable to an AMBER Alert. NCMEC tracks and maintains an official number of AMBER recoveries, complete with the supporting information.
Following the White House Conference on Missing, Exploited and Runaway Children in October 2002, hosted by the President and Mrs. Bush, Daniels was named National Coordinator by Attorney General John Ashcroft. In April 2003, the PROTECT Act statutorily established the National AMBER Coordinator and tasked the Coordinator to: facilitate AMBER network development; support development of state AMBER plans; help eliminate geographic gaps in AMBER networks; provide regional coordination; and establish guidance on criteria for issuing an AMBER Alert.
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 kidnaped 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.
More information on AMBER Alerts can be found on a new Web page on the Office of Justice Programs' home page, www.ojp.usdoj.gov. The site also features up-to-date 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.
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 .