DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE CONFERENCE HIGHLIGHTS AMBER ALERT SYSTEM
SUCCESS, FINDS WAY TO ENHANCE PROGRAM
426 Children Safely Recovered Since Program Began
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National AMBER Alert Conference, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs (OJP) will be held today through Thursday in Orange County, Calif.
More than 300 AMBER Alert Coordinators from all 50 states, tribal communities, U.S. territories, the District of Columbia, Canada and Mexico will gather at the conference to receive additional training and discuss ways to improve and enhance the current AMBER Alert Program. The conference highlights Child Abduction Response Teams (CART) and individual state training tracks and sessions geared toward participants working to bring the AMBER Alert program to Native American communities.
“AMBER Alert has helped to rescue hundreds of children from abductors and return them safely to their homes,” said Assistant Attorney General and National AMBER Alert Coordinator Jeffrey L. Sedgwick. “Thanks to cooperation among law enforcement agencies, the media, transportation officials, public and private partners, and concerned citizens, the AMBER Alert system has become part of America’s public safety landscape.”
Erin Runnion, whose daughter was abducted and murdered at the age of 5, will deliver a speech on her life altering experiences. Runnion is the Founding Director of the Joyful Child Foundation, a nonprofit, dedicated to preventing child sexual abuse and abduction through prevention programs.
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 system was created in memory of nine-year-old Amber Hagerman of Arlington, Texas, who was abducted while riding her bicycle and later found murdered. AMBER (America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response) Alerts are emergency messages broadcast when a law enforcement agency determines that a child has been abducted and is in imminent danger. The broadcasts include information about the child and the abductor, including physical descriptions and information about the abductor's vehicle, which could lead to the child's recovery.
AMBER Alerts are also available to wireless users who can opt to receive geographically-specified messages on their wireless devices or cell phones through an AMBER Alert wireless messaging system. Wireless subscribers with the ability to receive text messages may opt in to receive AMBER Alerts by registering at www.wirelessamberalerts.org or by visiting their wireless carrier’s web site.
In October 2002, President Bush hosted the first-ever White House Conference on Missing, Exploited and Runaway Children. Following the conference, the Attorney General appointed the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs to serve as the national AMBER Alert Coordinator, and work began on a strategy to create a seamless national network of alert systems. The PROTECT Act, which President Bush signed into law in April 2003, statutorily established the national AMBER Alert Coordinator role. Since that time, AMBER Alert has made remarkable progress.
The Office of Justice Programs, headed by Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey L. Sedgwick, provides federal leadership in developing the nation's capacity to prevent and control crime, administer justice, and assist victims. OJP has five component bureaus: 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. Additionally, OJP has two program offices: the Community Capacity Development Office, which incorporates the Weed and Seed strategy, and the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking (SMART). More information can be found at http://www.ojp.gov.