Cybele K. Daley, Acting Assistant Attorney General
Office of Justice Programs
Amber Alert National Conference
November 14, 2007
Thank you, Troy, for that introduction.
Good morning. Let me add my welcome to this 2007 National AMBER Alert Conference. It’s a pleasure to be with you today. It’s nice to get away from Washington and into this, literally, rarefied air.
I want to thank U.S. Attorney Eid for taking the time out of his busy schedule to join us. I also want to thank Mr. Fisher for representing his department.
A special thanks to our good friends at Fox Valley Technical College for bringing us all out here to Denver.
I also want to recognize our partners at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children for their presence and for their good work and leadership in helping to find and recover abducted children.
And last but not least, a note of appreciation to Ron Laney and the staff of our Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention for their tireless work and continued commitment to children.
Having been at the Office of Justice Programs for the last two-and-a-half years, it’s gratifying for me to see how much the AMBER Alert network has grown, not only in size, which is considerable, but also in strength and dimension.
As we all know, AMBER Alert was conceived, and initially was put into place, solely to respond to emergencies. It retains that as its operational mission, but its impact has become much more far-reaching. When I hear people talk about AMBER now, I hear words like, “deterrent,” and phrases like, “means of prevention.” I’m not sure anyone envisioned applying those descriptors to AMBER Alert a decade ago.
But today, we hear stories like the one from Highland Park, Michigan, where a seven-year-old girl was abducted by her babysitter and effectively held hostage for 18 hours. But when the suspect heard the AMBER Alert, she dropped the child off at her uncle’s home.
In that case, as in so many others in recent years, credit for the child’s safety goes not to an effective search-and-rescue operation, but to a system whose reputation as a crime-stopper is now firmly established. Abductors know that, when they hear an AMBER Alert, an entire community is on the look-out.
The reason for this is the hard work that all of you have done to strengthen the AMBER network. It’s the outreach you’ve done in your communities. It’s the alliances you’ve formed with other professionals. It’s the ingenuity you’ve demonstrated in getting the public’s attention. And it’s the vigilance you’ve shown in tracking down abductors and recovering children.
Thanks to your work, 365 children have been rescued from abductors. That’s 365 young lives that you helped to save. You may consider it all in a day’s work, but for the mothers, fathers, grandparents, relatives, and friends of those children, you may as well be angels from heaven.
This past year has been a busy one. We have moved ahead in many areas.
At last year’s AMBER conference, we emphasized our work with tribal communities. We continued to meet with tribal leaders following the conference, and I know several states have been working with tribes to strengthen their AMBER relationship. In September, we selected 10 tribal sites to serve as pilot communities as part of our AMBER Alert in Indian Country initiative. These 10 sites will serve as models for other tribal communities, and will help bridge the gap between tribes and state and regional AMBER programs.
We continued to move ahead with secondary distribution. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children entered into a partnership with MySpace to distribute AMBER Alerts. As a result, the popular social networking site sends messages to all users within the zip codes covered by an alert.
We’ve also welcomed new partners into our network. The nation’s 43,000 airport security screeners now receive AMBER Alerts, along with photos of abducted children. Transportation Security Administration screeners check some two million people a day, so this will establish a critical checkpoint against abductors.
And we’ve even re-designed our AMBER Alert Web site in an effort to give you easy access to resources and information that will help you do your job even better – if that’s even possible.
These are just a few of our most recent efforts. You’ll hear about others during this conference as well.
I’d like to propose an unofficial theme for this year’s conference – “Strengthening Partnerships.” Partnerships, after all – even unconventional partnerships – are at the heart of the AMBER Alert program, and they are the reason behind AMBER’s continued success. From the unprecedented alliance of broadcasters and law enforcement, to the exciting public-private nature of our secondary distribution efforts, partnerships define AMBER Alert.
Let us work to build on the partnerships we’ve already formed, and on the very idea of partnership. Let’s think of ways we can include others in our work. Who else could be helping us? Who should we be reaching out to? Let’s make this network as broad and expansive as we possibly can.
I encourage you to take advantage of your time here to talk with your counterparts in other states and communities. Soak up everything you can that promises to help you improve the AMBER system in your jurisdiction. Share with us what’s working, what’s not working, and what you think we can do to further strengthen the AMBER Alert network.
Our role at the Office of Justice Programs is to help coordinate AMBER Alert efforts nationwide so that our network for finding abducted children is strong and seamless. We need your feedback and guidance to realize that goal. I hope you’ll see these four days as your opportunity to influence the direction of AMBER Alert.
I want to thank you once again for being here, and for your commitment to protecting children. I wish you well on a successful conference.