ATTORNEY GENERAL ALBERTO R. GONZALES COMMEMORATES 10TH ANNIVERSARY OF AMBER ALERT
Program Has Saved Lives of 241 Abducted Children Since Inception
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales today commemorated the 10-year anniversary of the AMBER Alert program by pointing to the tremendous success of the initiative that has saved the lives of 241 abducted children nationwide and outlining important next steps to expand the program's reach and effectiveness.
"Today we honor the memory of Amber Hagerman, and we are reminded that the death or disappearance of just one child is a price that no parent should have to bear," said Attorney General Gonzales. "I am proud that the Department of Justice is part of the effort to build a system that tracks abducted children more quickly and alerts police and citizens as soon as possible. The AMBER Alert program has made a meaningful difference, and for the sake of Amber and every other child who we've lost in this manner, we must continue to rededicate ourselves to the safety and support of the most vulnerable in our society."
Attorney General Gonzales spoke at a ceremony honoring the memory of Amber Hagerman, whose abduction and murder in 1996 was the impetus for the AMBER Alert, the nation's first early warning system for missing or abducted children. The Attorney General praised the Office of Justice Programs' (OJP) participation in a pilot program to receive AMBER Alerts in the Washington, D.C. area through OJP's e-mail system and encouraged the other components of the Department of Justice to join in this expansion of the reach and effectiveness of AMBER Alert.
Attorney General Gonzales noted the remarkable progress made under the program:
Ten years ago today, Amber Hagerman was abducted while riding her bicycle and then brutally murdered. AMBER Alerts (America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response) began shortly afterward, when Dallas-Fort Worth broadcasters teamed up with local police to develop an early warning system to help find abducted children.
The AMBER Alert network broadcasts emergency messages 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 that could lead to the child's recovery, such as a physical description and information about the abductor's vehicle.
In October 2002, President Bush hosted the first-ever White House Conference on Missing, Exploited and Runaway Children. Following the 2002 White House Conference, the Attorney General appointed the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs to serve as the national AMBER Alert Coordinator and a national strategy was developed 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.
"AMBER Alert has become widely recognized because of the hard work and dedication of so many," said Regina B. Schofield, Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs and National AMBER Alert Coordinator. "Rapid response is vital in abduction cases, and the widespread use of the AMBER Alert network makes it the nation's most powerful tool for bringing abducted children home."
In addition to applauding OJP's participation in the pilot program to receive AMBER Alerts through its e-mail system and encouraging other Justice Department components to join the pilot project, Attorney General Gonzales outlined other important developments and next steps for the AMBER Alert program:
The Department of Justice today presented Amber Hagerman's mother, Donna Norris, with a plaque in honor of her daughter, and the Attorney General and Deputy Postmaster General of the United States unveiled the AMBER Alert stamp, which will enter public circulation in May. In addition, the Department announced a poster campaign to raise awareness about missing children's issues. Students at the Benjamin Orr Elementary School in Washington, D.C. joined students nationwide to create posters as part of the commemoration events today. The winning poster will be announced in May at a Justice Department ceremony in honor of Missing Children's Day.