Remarks of Laurie Robinson, Assistant Attorney General
Office of Justice Programs
AMBER Alert/Facebook News Conference
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Thank you, Ernie [Allen]. You are a true leader in the fight to protect our nation's children, and the Department of Justice is fortunate to call you - and all the hardworking folks here at NCMEC - our partners. I also want to thank Facebook and Chris Sonderby for demonstrating their commitment to child safety.
Finally, I want to acknowledge our Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention for their tireless efforts to enhance juvenile justice and protect children throughout the country.
I'd like to talk briefly about why AMBER Alert is so important. The numbers are incredible, but, really, numbers never do a topic like this justice. So, I want to start with a reminder of the real people AMBER is helping - terrified children, frightened parents, dedicated law enforcement officers, and vigilant community members.
Last October in California, a gang member grabbed an 8-year-old girl while she was playing in front of her house. Her horrified mother ran after the truck, but it was too late. A statewide AMBER Alert was issued. Officers immediately began looking for the truck and details of the abduction blanketed local media. Luckily, Victor Perez was watching the local news. When this attentive citizen later spotted the suspect's vehicle, he followed it, and he prevented the culprit from fleeing.
The kidnapper, in a panic, released the young girl, and Mr. Perez rescued her. I think that's a pretty amazing story! That young girl is just one of many kids who have benefited from AMBER Alert in the last 15 years. To date, 525 children have been brought home as a result of the AMBER Alert system.
A major factor in this success has always been the use of secondary distribution networks. From wireless providers to trucking companies, AMBER Alert really depends on partnerships with public and private entities to get the word out when a child goes missing.
Today, we're thrilled that NCMEC and Facebook will now be working together to distribute AMBER Alerts. This new partnership will allow Facebook users to receive AMBER Alerts directly on Facebook.
This partnership is just one way that the AMBER Alert program continues to grow and strengthen. My agency - the Office of Justice Programs - coordinates the National AMBER Alert program and assists state and local officials with developing and enhancing AMBER Alert plans.
We also work to promote coordination and eliminate geographical and jurisdictional barriers. As we all know, social networking has few boundaries - and now, AMBER Alerts will benefit from that nearly limitless reach.
Of course, AMBER Alert is just one of the Department's many initiatives focused on protecting our nation's youth. Last fall, Attorney General Eric Holder launched a new comprehensive effort - Defending Childhood - to address children's exposure to violence, and the Department also provides vital support for Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces to help state and local law enforcement and prosecutors address online child victimization and pornography.
In the past two years, these 61 ICAC Task Forces throughout the country have conducted more than 55,000 investigations, leading to the arrest of more than 9,100 individuals and the identification of more than 3,000 child victims of abuse or neglect.
All of these efforts demonstrate the high priority this Administration places on child protection. While we can't fulfill every parent's dream and completely insulate children, we can promote programs and partnerships that protect children and help bring them home.
So I'm delighted to be here today to help launch this great new initiative - and I thank our partners for joining us in these efforts.
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