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DOJ Press Release letterhead

Thursday, February 17, 2005
Office of Justice Programs
Contact: Catherine Sanders
Phone: (202) 307-0703
TTY: (202) 514-1888


WASHINGTON, D.C. - Hawaii became the 50th state to complete its statewide AMBER Alert plan to aid in the recovery of abducted children, the Department of Justice and state of Hawaii announced today. Only four states had statewide AMBER Alert plans in place at the end of 2001. For the first time, all 50 states now have a statewide AMBER Alert plan, creating a network of plans nationwide.

     "A missing child is every parent's worst nightmare," said Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales. "AMBER Alerts have already made a significant difference, and the establishment of AMBER Alert plans in all 50 states marks an important milestone in our efforts to prevent child abductions. No matter where a child is missing, concerned Americans stand ready to help. Through the AMBER program, communities and law enforcement will work together to recover missing children quickly and safely."

     Acting Assistant Attorney General (AAG) for the Justice Department's Office of Justice Programs (OJP) Tracy A. Henke joined Hawaii Lieutenant Governor James R. "Duke" Aiona at a ceremony announcing Hawaii's statewide plan, the MAILE AMBER Alert, at the state capitol today. Lt. Governor Aiona and Henke, who also serves as the Acting National AMBER Alert Coordinator, were joined by other state and local officials and Tip Gilbert, father of six-year-old Maile Gilbert of Kailua who was tragically abducted in August 1985 and later found murdered. Hawaii's AMBER Alert plan is named in honor of Maile Gilbert.

     "The stunning success of the AMBER Alert is directly related to the unprecedented cooperation of alert citizens and broadcasters with local law enforcement," said AAG Henke. "The establishment of statewide AMBER Alert plans in all 50 states is a landmark achievement that makes America's children safer."

     AMBER Alert programs have helped save the lives of 192 children nationwide. Over 80 percent of those recoveries have occurred since October 2002 when President Bush called for a nationally coordinated AMBER Alert program at the first-ever White House Conference on Missing, Exploited and Runaway Children.

     The PROTECT Act, which President Bush signed into law in April 2003, statutorily established the National AMBER Coordinator and required 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. Since that time, AMBER Alert has made remarkable progress:

  • In 2003, the Department of Justice convened the first-ever National AMBER Alert Training Conference and the National AMBER Alert Technology Conference. Teams of broadcasters, law enforcement and transportation officials from all 50 states gathered for the first time. In 2004, the Department of Justice convened the second National AMBER Alert Training Conference for teams of broadcasters, law enforcement and transportation officials from all 50 states
  • OJP provided Guidance on Criteria for Issuance of AMBER Alerts to law enforcement, broadcasters, transportation officials, and the general public to aid in the development of AMBER statewide plans.
  • The Department of Justice called for a national AMBER Alert awareness day on January 13, 2005. To raise awareness for this valuable public safety resource, broadcasters around the country were asked to air Public Service Announcements featuring John Walsh of America's Most Wanted and Ed Smart, father of Elizabeth Smart, who was abducted from her home and recovered nine months later.
  • The Department of Justice launched a website dedicated to AMBER Alert, Additional information about AMBER Alert can be found there including the Report to the White House on AMBER Alert, comprehensive information about AMBER Alert, a progress report and stories about successful recoveries.

     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 as well as information about the abductor's vehicle - which could lead to the child's recovery.

     The AMBER Alert program began in Texas in 1996 when Dallas-Fort Worth broadcasters teamed up with local police to develop an early warning system to help find abducted children, in memory of nine-year-old Amber Hagerman of Arlington, Texas who was abducted while riding her bicycle and later found murdered.

     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 five component bureaus and two 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 Office of the Police Corps and Law Enforcement Education, and the Community Capacity Development Office, which incorporates the Weed and Seed initiative. More information can be found at